Michelle Obama slams Boko Haram for kidnapping of Nigerian schoolgirls

America's First Lady uses her husband's weekly radio and internet address to highlight the plight of 276 schoolgirls kidnapped by Islamic extremists in northeast Nigeria

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 10 May, 2014, 8:14pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 May, 2014, 6:12am

US first lady Michelle Obama yesterday denounced as an "unconscionable act" the kidnapping of more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls by Islamic militants as the international community helped with the search effort.

For the first time standing in for US President Barack Obama on his weekly Saturday morning address, she said they were both "outraged and heartbroken" over the mass abduction from a school dormitory in a remote corner of northern Nigeria last month. Their sentiments were shared by "millions of people across the globe", she said.

This violence "was not an isolated incident … it's a story we see every day as girls around the world risk their lives to pursue their ambitions", she said.

"This unconscionable act was committed by a terrorist group determined to keep these girls from getting an education - grown men attempting to snuff out the aspirations of young girls," Michelle Obama said.

On April 14, 276 schoolgirls were abducted in the northeastern Nigerian town of Chibok, with eight more seized from Warabe on May 5. Three weeks later 223 girls are still missing.

The Islamist militant group Boko Haram claimed responsibility, and threatened to sell the girls into slavery.

The abductions have sparked offers of help from the United States, France, Britain and China.

Seven military officials from the US Africa regional command AFRICOM along with a State Department expert arrived in Nigeria on Friday. Seven more, including FBI personnel, were expected yesterday.

"They'll be providing technical and investigatory assistance, helping with hostage negotiations, advising on military planning and operations and assisting with intelligence and information," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

Among the help would be intelligence-sharing as the teams work to track down the girls, who range in age from 16 to 18.

Sources close to French President Francois Hollande said yesterday the French team of experts were now on the ground.

Britain said on Wednesday it would send a small team to Nigeria to concentrate on planning, co-ordination and advice to local authorities rather than operations on the ground.

China has promised to supply "any useful information acquired by its satellites and intelligence services" to Nigeria.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said a search team was already at work in Sambisa forest, near Chibok, with remote sensors trying to locate the kidnappers and their victims.

The abductions have also led to a growing social-media campaign with the #BringBackOurGirls joined by public figures and celebrities.

The Financial Times yesterday published an open letter signed by 50 leading personalities, including former world leaders as well as the singer Bono, Bill and Melinda Gates and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus.

"We urge all local, national and regional governments, with the full support of the international community, to dedicate their expertise and resources … to #BringBackOurGirls," it read.