About 10 U.S. Africa Command military personnel will be part of a U.S. team assisting the Nigerian government in their efforts to find more than 250 schoolgirls kidnapped by the terrorist group Boko Haram, Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren said today.
President Barack Obama directed the formation of an interagency coordination and assessment cell after Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan accepted a U.S. offer of assistance, the colonel told reporters.
“The Defense Department stands firmly with the people of Nigeria in their efforts to bring the terrorist violence perpetrated by Boko Haram to an end while ensuring civilian protection and respect for human rights,” Warren said.
About three weeks ago, members of the Islamist militant group Boko Haram raided a girls secondary school in Chibok, Nigeria, located about 500 miles east of Abuja, the national capital.
According to news reports, the school had been closed due to terrorist threats, but reopened to allow some students to take graduation exams. The terrorists reportedly attempted to kidnap more than 300 girls, but about 50 managed to escape.
The interagency team will include representatives from the departments of State and Justice and other law enforcement elements, Warren said. The team is expected to begin arriving “within days” at the U.S. embassy in Abuja, he added.
There are no plans for broader military operations, Warren said.
“The personnel that we’re sending to Nigeria now, … their purpose is to coordinate with the Nigerian government and assess what assistance we can provide them,” the colonel said.
The military personnel will provide a wide range of expertise in support of the Nigerian government’s search efforts, including communications, logistics and intelligence, he said.
By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service