9th May, 2014
Nigeria has requested for United States surveillance aircraft and intelligence to help track the over 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram gunmen, a senior U.S. official, Linda Thomas-Greenfield said on Thursday
“The Nigerians have asked for assistance in that area and we are considering it,” said Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. assistant-secretary of State for African Affairs.
U.S. military, law-enforcement and development experts, including some skilled in hostage negotiations, started arriving in Nigeria on Thursday to help search for the missing girls and tackle the rising threat from Boko Haram. France, Britain and China have also offered help.
Thomas-Greenfield said the United States has worked with Nigeria since September on improving the African country’s ability to fight Boko Haram following a request by Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan to President Barack Obama.
Obama has vowed to” do to everything we can” to help find the girls, whose April 14 abduction from a secondary school triggered international outrage.
Thomas-Greenfield said Jonathan has been “very, very receptive” to the latest offer for U.S. assistance and assigned his national security adviser to work with the U.S. teams.
“I caution that we can’t make this our own problem because Nigerians have to be front and center, we can’t lead it and we can’t fix it.”
Speaking at the World Economic Forum being hosted in the Nigerian capital Abuja, Jonathan pledged to find the girls and thanked foreign nations for their support.
Thomas-Greenfield said Boko Haram was not just a security issue but also a development challenge faced by the Nigerian government in one of the poorest areas of the country.
“Boko Haram has been able to use the lack of development, the disaffection with the government, to entice young people to come into their fold,” she said. “It is a double-edged sword that needs to be not only sharpened but also blunted.”
She said problems with Boko Haram, which also operates out of neighboring Cameroon, had also highlighted the need to develop a regional strategy to fight increased Islamic militancy in parts of sub-Saharan Africa.