The US has offered to send a team of experts to Nigeria to help find more than 200 kidnapped schoolgirls amid a wave of outrage over their abduction.
Secretary of State John Kerry made the offer on Tuesday in a phone call to Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan, who welcomed it, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
Washington has also offered to set up a coordination cell at its embassy in Abuja with US military personnel, law enforcement officials as well as experts in hostage situations, she said.
In Abuja, Jonathan accepted the offer, which his office said would “include the deployment of US security personnel and assets to work with their Nigerian counterparts in the search and rescue operation”.
The leader of the Islamist militant group Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the abductions in a video on Monday.
Although the girls, aged between 16 to 18, were kidnapped from their boarding school some three weeks ago in northeastern Nigeria, the release of the video has pushed the abductions to the forefront of US television news.
Some 200 protesters gathered outside the Nigerian embassy in Washington on Tuesday to demand the country take robust action to rescue the girls from the hands of the Islamist militants.
Chanting “bring back our girls” and “no more abuse,” they called upon Jonathan to show what one speaker called the “testicular fortitude” to resolve the crisis.
Abubakar Shekau, the Boko Haram leader, said the extremist group was holding the schoolgirls abducted from Chibok on April 14 as “slaves” and threatened to “sell them in the market”.
Eight more schoolgirls were kidnapped by gunmen from the village of Warabe in Nigeria’s embattled northeast, near Chibok, residents said on Tuesday.
Jonathan’s government has so far been powerless in the hunt for the girls, but had been reluctant to accept any outside help.