U.S. to Send Team to Help Locate the 276 Girls Still Missing in Nigeria
The White House announced on Tuesday that it would be sending a team to help in the efforts to locate and rescue the nearly 300 Nigerian schoolgirls who were abducted April 15 by the Islamic extremist group, Boko Haram.
According to the Washington Post, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said that U.S. will not be sending troops, but will provide military personnel, intelligence and hostage negotiators to help the government.
Carney said that when Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan and Secretary of State John Kerry spoke earlier Tuesday, Jonathan “welcomed” the offer of help.
"The president was very happy to receive this offer and ready to move on it immediately. We are immediately engaging in order to implement this. We remain deeply concerned about the welfare of these young girls,” Kerry said at a press conference with the European Union.
The girls were abducted over three weeks ago from the Chibok Government Girls Secondary School. They had been frightened from hearing nearby gunshots and were initially relieved to see their captors, who they thought were there to protect them. One of 53 girls who managed to escape spoke to Associated Press about the ordeal.
“Don't worry, we're soldiers. Nothing is going to happen to you," she recall them saying.
The gunmen made all of the girls go outside.
"They ... started shouting, 'Allahu Akhbar,' (God is great). And we knew,” she told AP.
The girls were loaded into pickup trucks and are assumed to have been taken into the Sambisa Forest. The forest, a known to shelter extremist hideouts, spans over 23,000 sq. miles.
“Boko Haram” translates to “Western education is sinful.” According to a U.S. Institute of Peace Special Report, the group, which was established in 2002 is “an Islamic sect that believes politics in northern Nigeria has been seized by a group of corrupt, false Muslims. It wants to wage a war against them...to create a “pure” Islamic state ruled by sharia law.” They are strongly against “Westernization,” including Christianity as well as “Western education.”
In February, Boko Haram burned a Nigerian boys’ school, killing 59 students.
In a video by Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, the group admitted to the mass abduction and vowed to keep kidnapping girls and attacking schools. He also threatened to sell the girls in captivity “on the market.”
Hours after the video’s release on Monday, Boko Haram kidnapped eight more girls, just as they warned. President Barack Obama spoke about the new kidnappings in an interview with ABC.
“...This may be the event that helps to mobilize the entire international community to finally do something against this horrendous organization that’s perpetrated such a terrible crime,” Obama said.
According to the Associated Press, of the 276 girls still missing, two have died from snakebite and at least 20 are ill. Fox News reports that kidnapped girls have allegedly been forced to marry their abductors — who pay a nominal bride price of $12 — or taken to neighboring Cameroon and Chad.
Though Secretary of State Kerry insists the U.S. will move immediately, there is no official word on when to expect the U.S. team in Nigeria.