(AFP) – US and British experts have arrived in Nigeria to help in the hunt
for more than 200 schoolgirls whose abduction last month by Islamists
prompted universal outrage.
The US embassy in Abuja told AFP Friday that a team of American experts
had arrived in Nigeria, without specifying the make up of the group.
US officials have previously said Washington would send military personnel
as well as specialists from the Justice Department and the FBI to help
search for the girls kidnapped by the Boko Haram group on April 14 in the
northeastern town of Chibok.
British specialists, including defence ministry personnel, also landed in
Nigeria’s capital on Friday, the foreign office said.
France and China have also offered satellite imaging equipment to help
find the girls whose kidnapping has drawn condemnation worldwide and
raised awareness about an Islamist uprising that has killed thousands
Nigeria had initially been slow to respond to the kidnappings and the
military’s search and rescue effort has been fiercely criticised by
activists and parents of the hostages.
But a series of protests in the capital, a growing social media campaign,
and attention from world leaders and celebrities has put pressure on
Nigeria to act more aggressively.
Nigeria has in the past resisted security cooperation with the West,
experts said, but amid outrage over the plight of the hostages, President
Goodluck Jonathan’s administration this week welcomed offers of help from
– Unprecedented brutality –
The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) on Friday said that aside from
the kidnappings which have captured global attention, focus needed to
remain on Boko Haram’s wider insurgency.
“The brutality and frequency of (the group’s) attacks is unprecedented,”
UNHCR said in a statement.
Most of the group’s recent violence has been concentrated in the remote
northeast, where Boko Haram was founded more than a decade ago, and where
more than 1,600 people have already been killed this year.
Attacks in Borno state have at times seemed a weekly occurence this year,
with defenceless civilians the most frequent victims.
“Some have witnessed friends or family members being randomly singled out
and killed in the streets,” UNHCR said.
“People speak of homes and fields being burned to the ground, with
villages completely razed, or grenades being launched into crowded markets
killing people and livestock,” the statement added.
Boko Haram has said it is fighting to create a strict Islamic state in
Nigeria’s mainly Muslim north.
Some in the deeply conservative northeast have voiced support for a
society governed by sharia, or Islamic law.
But experts say that any public support Boko Haram may have once had in
the region has been largely destroyed by its ruthless campaign against
The most recent massacre by the group killed hundreds in the northeastern
town of Gamboru Ngala, on the Cameroon border.
Islamist gunmen razed much of the town and fired indiscriminately on
civilians as they tried to flee, burning entire families in their homes.
– A turning point? –
Addressing a World Economic Forum summit in Abuja on Thursday, Jonathan
said the Chibok kidnappings would mark a turning point in the battle
against the Islamists, calling it “the beginning of the end of terrorism
Nigeria’s failure to contain the violence has raised questions as to
whether the country can eliminate Boko Haram without outside help.
Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country and top economy, with by far the
largest defence budget in west Africa, but its military has been widely
accused of committing serious rights abuses, while its competence has been
Some have voiced hope that collaborating on the hostage rescue may improve
Nigeria’s broader capacity to defeat Boko Haram.
Britain’s foreign office said that aside from working to rescue the
hostages, its team, “working closely with their US counterparts,” would
also be focused on “longer-term counter-terrorism solutions to prevent
such attacks in the future and defeat Boko Haram.”