Nigeria accepted the US offer of assistance in rescuing more than 200 schoolgirls abducted by the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram, but not before the UN revealed a second group abduction. Between eight and eleven schoolgirls went missing in Borno, although officials still dispute whether Boko Haram was involved in the incident:
An international uproar mounted Tuesday over the fate of hundreds of Nigerian schoolgirls abducted by Islamist militants in mid-April, with the Obama administration preparing to send a team of specialists to Nigeria to help recover the missing girls and U.N. officials warning that the kidnappers could face arrest, prosecution and prison under international law.
In Nigeria, U.N. officials reported that a new kidnapping had occurred, with between eight and 11 girls abducted Sunday by armed militants in the northern state of Borno to prevent them from attending school. It is unclear whether the same extremist group was involved in both abductions. The state’s police commissioner denied that any abductions had taken place.
The White House announced that Secretary of State John F. Kerry had called Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday morning and offered to send a team including law enforcement and military experts to help his government find and free the roughly 300 girls seized from a school in remote northeastern Nigeria on either April 14 or April 15. Some escaped, but 276 are believed still missing.
A State Department spokesman said that Jonathan, who has been reluctant to move against the militants, “welcomed” the offer. Kerry, in a separate statement, said U.S. officials had delayed action because Jonathan’s government “had its own set of strategies,” but new developments had “convinced everybody that there needs to be a greater effort.”
The US assistance comes as protests rise here over Boko Haram’s actions and the perceived lack of response:
Nigerian officials bristled at the suggestion that they haven’t done enough to rescue the girls:
President Goodluck Jonathan has been under fire over accusations the government initially ignored and then later downplayed the abduction of the girls, who have become the focal point of a social media campaign demanding their safe return.
“The President and the government (are) not taking this as easy as people all over the world think,” Doyin Okupe, a spokesman for Jonathan told CNN.
“We’ve done a lot — but we are not talking about it. We’re not Americans. We’re not showing people, you know, but it does not mean that we are not doing something.”
In detailing the government’s response, two special battalions have been devoted to the search for the missing girls, Okupe said. That includes 250 locations that have been searched by helicopters and airplanes.
So far, though, the parents are less than impressed:
But the father of two of the schoolgirls taken by Boko Haram told CNN there has been no sign of the military in the days and weeks following the abduction.
He accused the government of “playing” with the parents of the missing girls, treating them as “fools.”
“Had there been these military men who went into the bush to rescue our daughters, we would have seen them,” said the father, who declined to be identified for fear of reprisals by the government and the terror group. “…We have never seen any military man there.”
The insertion of American resources into Nigeria suggests that the government isn’t trying to downplay the abductions — but probably isn’t capable of dealing with them either. Boko Haram has been conducting a terrorist civil war for years, and operates with some impunity in a large part of the northern region of Nigeria. They have access to the borders of Niger, Chad, Cameroon, and Benin, which means that their hostages could be moved out of Nigeria in a number of different ways. If Boko Haram was too much for the Nigerian security system as a fighting force, dealing with abductions will be even more difficult.