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US pledges to help with hunt for Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by militants

US Secretary of State, John Kerry, has called the abductions 'an unconscionable crime'

US Secretary of State John Kerry has pledged American help in finding and returning hundreds of Nigerian girls abducted by militants more than two weeks ago.

“The kidnapping of hundreds of children by Boko Haram is an unconscionable crime,” Mr Kerry said. “We will do everything possible to support the Nigerian government to return these young women to their homes and hold the perpetrators to justice.”

Nigerian authorities said more than 250 girls are still missing after the mass abduction of teenagers from schools on 14 April.

Villagers and relatives of the missing girls said some of them had been sold into forced marriages with their kidnappers, thought to be members of the militant Islamic movement known as Boko Haram.

The group, whose name means “Western education is sinful”, has not publicly admitted responsibility for the abductions.

“We are working to strengthen Nigeria’s institutions and its military to combat Boko Haram’s campaign of terror and violence,” Mr Kerry said, during a speech in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, on US policy and objectives in Africa.

“I’ve seen this scourge of terror across the planet, and so have you,” Mr Kerry added. “They don’t offer anything,” he said of movements such as Boko Haram. “They just tell people: ‘You have to behave the way we tell you to.’

“Our responsibility, and the world’s responsibility, is to stand up to that kind of nihilism,” he said.

Mr Kerry did not specify what kind of help the United States could provide, but the abductions gave new urgency to efforts to boost the Nigerian government’s ability to counter the rebels.

A senior State Department official travelling with Mr Kerry said later that the Secretary of State was referring to security, communications and intelligence help for the overall fight against Boko Haram. The United States is not yet directly involved in the search for the missing girls, the official added.

“We don’t see this as just being a security problem,” said the official, who discussed the evolving strategy on condition of anonymity. “There are broader issues here that  … relate to how the government works with people in these communities.”

A team of US personnel from several agencies will travel to Nigeria in the coming week for consultations, according to the official. Hundreds of women protested in at least three Nigerian cities in the past week, to express their outrage that the girls had still not been found.

© The Washington Post