News / Africa

US to Join Efforts to Free Kidnapped Nigerian Girls

Protesters march in support of the girls kidnapped by members of Boko Haram in front of the Nigerian Embassy in Washington on May 6, 2014.
Protesters march in support of the girls kidnapped by members of Boko Haram in front of the Nigerian Embassy in Washington on May 6, 2014.
Heather MurdockScott Stearns
U.S. intelligence officials will head to Nigeria to help with the search for 276 schoolgirls abducted last month by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram, Secretary of State John Kerry announced Tuesday.
 
Kerry, who discussed the coordinated approach with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan by phone Tuesday, said the two countries would move immediately to establish a task force at the U.S. embassy in the capital city to provide more expertise on intelligence, investigations and hostage negotiations, as well as information sharing and victim assistance.
 
"We remain deeply concerned about the welfare of these young girls and we want to provide whatever assistance is possible in order to help for their safe return to their families," Kerry said at a news conference at the State Department in Washington.
 
He was joined by European Union foreign policy chief Cathy Ashton, with whom he’d met earlier in the day.
 
The young women represent Nigeria’s future, Ashton said.
 
"They are teachers, dancers, politicians. They are scientists. They are mothers.  They are women in the making who have a right to play their full part in their society.  And what has happened to them is devastating for all of us. And we must do, like you, everything possible to try and reunite them with their families and to prevent this ever, ever happening again."

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the team heading to the U.S. embassy in Nigeria's capital city would include U.S. military personnel and law enforcement officials trained in investigations and hostage negotiations.
 


The announcement follows widespread condemnation and anger inside Nigeria and abroad that Jonathan's government has not done enough to rescue the girls, who were kidnapped April 14 from a secondary school. 

Asked why the United States did not move more quickly to aid in the search, Kerry said the administration had been engaged from the beginning. He implied that it met some initial resistance from the Jonathan government.
 
"You can offer and talk, but you can't 'do' if a government has its own sense of how it's proceeding," Kerry said. "I think now the complications that have arisen have convinced everybody that there needs to be a greater effort.  And it will begin immediately."

Meanwhile, suspected Boko Haram gunmen kidnapped eight more girls between the ages of 12 and 15 from a village near one of their strongholds in northeastern Nigeria overnight, police and residents said earlier Tuesday.
 
Lazarus Musa, a resident of the village of Warabe, told Reuters that armed men had opened fire during the raid.
 
"They were many, and all of them carried guns. They came in two vehicles painted in army color. They started shooting in our village," Musa said by telephone from the village in the hilly Gwoza area, Boko Haram's main base.
 
A police source, who could not be named, said the girls were taken away on trucks, along with looted livestock and food.

Militants threaten to sell girls

On Tuesday, analysts said an announcement by the terrorist group Boko Haram earlier this week may have been timed to coincide with the World Economic Forum on Africa, a three-day event that begins Wednesday in Abuja, Nigeria.

On Monday, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau threatened in a video released to the media to sell the abducted girls “on the market.” No girls appeared in the video.

Nigerian officials said the economic forum would open as planned, despite growing public outrage over the abduction and government response. 

The international conference is expected to draw more than 1,000 delegates and many heads of state.

Jonathan said Boko Haram activities would not disrupt the forum.

“Terror will not stop us from work," the Nigerian president said. "The act of terror in Africa is diversionary … organized by a group of people that don't want the continent to move forward. Whenever any country is seeing any sign of progress, you see these criminal elements that will come up to retard the country.”

UN condemnation

In another development, the United Nations human rights office warned Islamist militants they could face charges of crimes against humanity if they carried out the threat to sell the kidnapped girls.

In a Tuesday briefing, Rupert Colville, a spokesman for U.N. rights chief Navi Pillay, said that under international law, it would be considered "one of the most serious crimes" that exists.
 

Colville said those responsible for such a crime could be arrested, prosecuted and "jailed at any time in the future."

Also Tuesday, Britain said it was supporting the Nigerian government's efforts to find the girls. British Foreign Secretary William Hague said his government is offering "practical help" to Nigeria.

Boko Haram's actions "in using girls as the spoils of war, the spoils of terrorism, is disgusting, it is immoral," Hague said. "It should show everybody across the world that they should not give any support to such a vile organization" he said.

Anger in Nigeria

Activists and families of the missing girls are increasingly angry with the lack of action by Jonathan’s government.
Protesters take part in a march to demand efforts increase to find kidnapped girls in Nigeria, in front of the Nigerian embassy in Washington, May 6, 2014. (Chelsea Pescador/VOA)Protesters take part in a march to demand efforts increase to find kidnapped girls in Nigeria, in front of the Nigerian embassy in Washington, May 6, 2014. (Chelsea Pescador/VOA)
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Protesters take part in a march to demand efforts increase to find kidnapped girls in Nigeria, in front of the Nigerian embassy in Washington, May 6, 2014. (Chelsea Pescador/VOA)
Protesters take part in a march to demand efforts increase to find kidnapped girls in Nigeria, in front of the Nigerian embassy in Washington, May 6, 2014. (Chelsea Pescador/VOA)
Critics also fault the Nigerian government for failing to stop Boko Haram.

The militants have been blamed for thousands of deaths in the past five years. Two bombings within the past month at a bus station in the capital, Abuja, killed nearly 100 people.

Boko Haram said it wants to install its harsh version of Islamic law, but Clement Nwankwo, who directs the Policy and Legal Advocacy Center in Abuja, said the violence may be partially driven by politics.

“For us who are asking questions, we are asking, ‘Did somebody set off this bomb in order to blame the opposition for it?’ In which case, perhaps it’s not even Boko Haram. These are the questions Nigerians are asking,” Nwankwo said.

As world leaders arrive in Abuja for the economic forum, authorities are tightening security, preparing to virtually shut down the city for the conference.

The World Economic Forum acknowledged security concerns but said cancellations for the event were no more than usual.

Girl recalls kidnapping, escape

A 16-year-old girl, who always had prided herself on running faster than her six brothers, was among about 50 students who escaped after Boko Haram attacked the Chibok girls school last month.

She spoke about her ordeal for the first time to the Associated Press, saying when the chance to escape arose, she and several others ran.

"We ran and ran, so fast," said the girl. "That is how I saved myself. I had no time to be scared, I was just running."

A few other girls clung to low-hanging branches and waited until the kidnappers' vehicles had passed. Then they met up in the bush and made their way back to the road. A man on a bicycle came across them and accompanied them back home.

Some information for this report provided by Reuters, AP.

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Comments page of 5
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by: Possible otuson from: Cross river
May 23, 2014 7:37 AM
With God on we are sure to recue the chibok girls from the hands of the so-called boko haram


by: kellie from: montana
May 20, 2014 10:36 PM
Please lord keep these girls safe please help them be strong and make their way home safe. You are in my thoughts and prayers


by: Anonymous
May 10, 2014 6:33 PM
EVERY NONSENSE MST B TRTD 1 DY BOKO HRM UR TM HAS CM OUR MESAIAH FRM U.S HAS CM LT ME SEE WEDA U WL NW CHNG NAME.


by: chiaja d ifeanyi from: enugu, nigeria
May 07, 2014 2:41 PM
I urge boko haram guys 2 pls repent cos wat dey ar doing is pure evil.


by: Nigerian ancestor from: Caribbean, West Indies
May 07, 2014 10:11 AM
Mr.Obama must use the full extend of the law and sent the U.S Military for example: Seal Team 6 U.S best army in collaboration with the Nigeria Army to help search and rescue that Nigerian girls these Islamic (Boko Haram) group who kidnap these girls MUST PAY OR LOCK THEM UP IN PRISON FOR LIFE OR GIVE THEM A DEATH SENTENCE because if they do Nigerian citizens do not get any justice for this wick act the Boko Haram group is going do the same thing over and over again. I personal believe that there is no law in Nigeria to protect their citizen from these group and the U.N need to get involve in the search and rescue too. This WICKED act that is committed by Boko Haram group UNLAWFUL.

In Response

by: Enibokun from: United Kingdom
May 08, 2014 10:32 AM
#Real Men Don't Buy Girls. Bring Back Our Girls ..


by: Momma from: North Carolina
May 07, 2014 7:49 AM
It's really sick to see Tea Baggers here suddenly against America getting involved. Sickos. The president of Nigeria was right, ' A country wants to move forward and people try to retard that.' SMH


by: Melissa1030 from: Nevada
May 07, 2014 12:38 AM
So why is it that every time something happens in another country which has nothing to do with us, we always have to stick our nose in where it doesn't belong? What about the thousands if not millions of children that go missing or are kidnapped here? Heaven forbid we help our own once in awhile. Wonder how much money we don't have is being spent on this one....

In Response

by: Dawn from: Maryland
May 07, 2014 11:28 AM
As a mom, I don't care what country has to be helped when it deals with innocent children. Every citizen should care about issues that impact innocent children. Individuals don't care until it's their own family member or someone they love. Think outside of yourself for a change.

In Response

by: Momma from: North Carolina
May 07, 2014 7:40 AM
Melissa, I get you are one of those Tea Baggers who only care if we go to eat for oil. Women are more important. Plus, this man had threatened America. What an ugly comment you made. Smh


by: David Tall from: United States
May 06, 2014 10:13 PM
only one thing is clear as day :hunt these thugs ,thieves,cowards,criminals catch them all and eradicate this horrible group which is worse than al quida


by: ali baba from: new york
May 06, 2014 9:51 PM
The Nigerian Gov.is acted so weak. the Nigerian Gov. should eliminate book harm for years . they should not let them do all these crime and they got away with it


by: ea18g from: Beaver Cove, Me
May 06, 2014 9:10 PM
When Putin takes a country, Obama shakes his fist and acts tough. When punks kidnap a group of kids, then he acts brave. Man up Barrack. Pick on someone your own size and help lots of folk not just a handful.

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Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

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