Nigeria abductions: US and UK experts help seek schoolgirls

Rally for abducted schoolgirls in Johannesburg, South Africa. 8 May 2014 The abductions have sparked worldwide protests, like here in South Africa

Experts from the US and UK have arrived in Nigeria to help find some 200 girls abducted by Boko Haram Islamist militants.

The experts include military advisers, negotiators and counsellors.

On Thursday, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said he hoped the foreign assistance would signal "the beginning of the end of terror" in Nigeria.

Nigeria has been criticised for its slow response to the kidnappings.

The schoolgirls were seized from their boarding school on the night of 14 April in the town of Chibok in north-eastern Borno state.

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The Nigerian group's latest actions have attracted such unanimous international condemnation that few will want to be publicly associated with them for quite some time”

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It is believed they are being held somewhere in the vast forested areas that stretch from near Chibok into neighbouring Cameroon.

More protests have been held in the British capital, London, and Nigeria's main city, Lagos, on Friday.

A Foreign Office statement said the British experts would be working closely with their US counterparts.

"The team will be considering not just the recent incidents but also longer-term counter-terrorism solutions to prevent such attacks in the future and defeat Boko Haram," it said.

Earlier, US Secretary of State John Kerry said: "Our inter-agency team is hitting the ground in Nigeria now and they are going to be working in concert with President Goodluck Jonathan's government to do everything that we possibly can to return these girls to their families and their communities."

"We are also going to do everything possible to counter the menace of Boko Haram," he said.

On Wednesday, President Barack Obama said the team comprised personnel from military, law enforcement and other agencies.

He said he hoped the kidnapping would galvanise the international community to take action against Boko Haram.

President Goodluck Jonathan in Abuja. 8 May 2014 President Goodluck Jonathan has accepted offers of help from the international community

President Jonathan, speaking at the World Economic Forum being hosted in the capital, Abuja, said the abduction of the girls could be a turning point in the battle against Boko Haram.

"I believe that the kidnap of these girls will be the beginning of the end of terror in Nigeria," he said.

Boko Haram at a glance

A screengrab taken from a video released on You Tube in April 2012, apparently showing Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau (centre) sitting flanked by militants
  • Founded in 2002
  • Initially focused on opposing Western education - Boko Haram means "Western education is forbidden" in the local Hausa language
  • Launched military operations in 2009 to create Islamic state
  • Thousands killed, mostly in north-eastern Nigeria - also attacked police and UN headquarters in capital, Abuja
  • Some three million people affected
  • Declared terrorist group by US in 2013

In his speech, he also thanked China, the US, the UK and France for their offers of help to rescue the girls.

France on Thursday announced it would station about 3,000 troops in Nigeria's neighbours to help tackle Islamist militants in the Sahel region.

Shortly after his speech, President Jonathan told the BBC that with the assistance his country was now receiving, "we will be able to bring terror to an end in Nigeria".

Boko Haram, whose name means "Western education is forbidden" in the Hausa language, began its insurgency in Borno state in 2009.

At least 1,200 people are estimated to have died in the violence this year alone.

Social media campaign

In a video released earlier this week, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau threatened to "sell" the students.

He said they should not have been in school in the first place, but rather should get married.

The abductions have triggered a growing social media campaign with the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls backed by public figures and celebrities.

US First Lady Michelle Obama has joined in, tweeting: "Our prayers are with the missing Nigerian girls and their families. It's time to #BringBackOurGirls."

On Thursday, US actress Angelina Jolie blamed a "culture of impunity" for the kidnapping. She said the world had to "make sure this stops happening".

Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl who survived a shooting by Taliban insurgents, has also spoken out, saying the world must not stay silent over the abduction.

She told the BBC that "if we remain silent then this will spread, this will happen more and more and more".

Rally for abducted schoolgirls in Johannesburg, South Africa. 8 May 2014 The abductions have sparked worldwide protests, like here in South Africa

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