World powers join search for 200 schoolgirls kidnapped in Nigeria

Specialist teams are sent to Nigeria to help find the 200 teenagers abducted by militants

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 May, 2014, 11:57pm
UPDATED : Friday, 09 May, 2014, 12:46am


World powers, including China and the United States, have joined in the search for the more than 200 schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram Islamists who have also killed hundreds in the country's northeast this week.

Amid global outrage over the April 14 kidnapping of the teenagers, the US, Britain and France are sending teams to Nigeria. China promised to supply "any useful information acquired by its satellites and intelligence services" to Nigeria. A US$300,000 reward was offered for information leading to the girls' rescue.

The latest insurgent attack targeted the town of Gamboru Ngala on the border with Cameroon, where gunmen razed buildings and fired on civilians as they tried to flee. By last night, 50 bodies had been found with the final death toll expected to be about 100. Area Senator Ahmed Zanna said the town was left unguarded because soldiers based there had been redeployed north towards Lake Chad in an effort to rescue the kidnapped girls.

Nigeria's response to the kidnappings has been criticised, including by activists and parents of the hostages who say the search operation has been inept.

President Goodluck Jonathan's administration has sought to appear more engaged with the plight of the hostages in recent days, especially after Boko Haram chief Abubakar Shekau released a video threatening to sell the girls as slaves.

In a second kidnapping, 11 more girls aged 12 to 15 were seized on Sunday from Gwoza, an area not far from Chibok and also in Boko Haram's Borno base.

Meeting Jonathan in Abuja ahead of the World Economic Forum for Africa, Premier Li Keqiang pledged stronger co-operation with Nigeria, Africa's top oil producer, but public focus has remained fixed on Boko Haram.

Speaking at the forum, Jonathan said international support for his country marked a major setback for the Islamic militants.

"Coming to support us here is a major blow for the terrorists," he said. "I believe the kidnap of these girls will be the beginning of the end for terror in Nigeria."

Barack Obama announced that a team of military experts had been sent to help Nigeria's rescue mission. His wife Michelle expressed sympathy for the schoolgirls, in a personal message on Twitter. "Our prayers are with the missing Nigerian girls and their families. It's time to #BringBackOurGirls," said the US first lady on her account, with a picture of her holding a sign saying "#BringBackOurGirls".

Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai, who was shot by the Taliban, also offered her support, saying she sees the kidnapped girls as her sisters. "When I heard about the girls in Nigeria being abducted I felt very sad and I thought that my sisters are in prison and I thought that I should speak up for them," she said.