The White House announced today it is sending military and intelligence personnel and hostage negotiators to Nigeria to help the government there bring home 276 girls abducted by Islamic militants.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said the team would not include troops. He did not specify how many members would be part of the team or what exactly they would be doing.
Nigeria’s military claims it has been looking for the girls, but parents and other villagers who got close to the Boko Haram hideout where the teens initially were thought to be held said they never saw any soldiers. Other villagers said when they asked Nigerian soldiers to help them look for the girls, the soldiers flatly refused. The heavily armed militants have overwhelmed the poorly trained Nigerian soldiers.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan accepted the U.S. offer of assistance after Secretary of State John Kerry called him personally this morning.
“The kidnapping of hundreds of children by Boko Haram is an unconscionable crime,”said Kerry, who is traveling in Ethiopia. “We will do everything possible to support the Nigerian government to return these young women to their homes and hold the perpetrators to justice.”
Dozens of Boko Haram terrorists kidnapped the girls from a government-run boarding school in mid-April. Some of the girls, who are Christians, have reportedly been forced to marry their Muslim captors. In a video message released Monday, Boko Haram’s leader said he would sell the girls into slavery. But an unnamed cleric who is in contact with the group claims it is willing to negotiate for the girls’release. He also said two girls have died from snakebites and 20 others are sick. The militants abducted eight more girls from a village overnight.
Frustrated parents have protested in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, and Nigerians living abroad have organized protests in other cities, including New York and Washington, D.C.