The grinning appearance of the Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau in a video released early this week where he threatened to sell the 230 or more girls still in captivity into sex slavery arguably focused minds on the Islamist group in a way that previous atrocities had failed to do.
As outrage grows around the world over the killings, the international community has stepped forward to offer support for the Nigerian government to find the girls, and furthermore to go after Boko Haram.
It could yet prove to be the militant group’s undoing, with President Barack Obama suggesting the kidnappings “may be the event that helps to mobilise the entire international community finally to do something against this horrendous organisation”.
The Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said that the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls last month by Boko Haram insurgents had marked a pivotal moment in the country’s fight against terror as the international community pledged support to help find the missing girls.
In pictures: Nigeria kidnapped schoolgirls
In pictures: Nigeria kidnapped schoolgirls
A total of 276 girls were abducted from the northeastern town of Chibok, in Borno state, which has a sizeable Christian community. Some 223 are still missing
One of the kidnapped girls looks into a camera
One of the missing girls talking to the camera
The missing Nigerian schoolgirls, wearing the full-length hijab and praying in an undisclosed rural location. Boko Haram alleging they had converted them to Islam
Girls wearing the full-length hijab holding a flag reading "There is no god, but Allah" and "Mohammed is Allah's prophet"
A man claiming to be the leader of Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram Abubakar Shekau
Abubakar Shekau speaks on the video
Girls, wearing the full-length hijab and praying are filmed by an unidentified man (R) in an undisclosed rural location
People carry signs as they attend a protest demanding the release of abducted secondary school girls in the remote village of Chibok in Lagos
A protester demonstrates against the kidnapping of school girls in Nigeria, outside the Nigerian Embassy in London
Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour and Prime Minister David Cameron appearing on the BBC1 current affairs programme
People participate in a "Bring Back Our Girls" campaign demonstration and candlelight vigil in Los Angeles
Girls holding heart shaped banners in a "Bring Back Our Girls" campaign demonstration and candlelight vigil in Los Angeles
14/19 South Africa
South Africans protest in solidarity against the abduction of hundreds of schoolgirls in Nigeria by the Muslim extremist group Boko Haram and what protesters said was the failure of the Nigerian government and international community to rescue them, during a march to the Nigerian Consulate in Johannesburg
Karilyn Coates (10) joins others in a candlelight vigil for the more than 300 girls abducted by Boko Haram in Nigeria, at All Souls Unitarian Church in Colorado Springs
Mothers of the missing Chibok school girls abducted by Boko Haram Islamists gather to receive informations from officials. Nigeria's president said that Boko Haram's mass abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls would mark a turning point in the battle against the Islamists, as world powers joined the search to rescue the hostages
Former Nigerian Education Minister and Vice-President of the World Bank's Africa division (3rd L) Obiageli Ezekwesilieze speaks as she leads a march of Nigeria women and mothers of the kidnapped girls of Chibok, calling for their freedom in Abuja
18/19 Bring Back Our Girls
Kelly Hoppen tweeted: 'Please make sure you do this, we must stand together and not forget them'
19/19 Bring Back Our Girls
E.L. Rock Star tweeted: 'Join The Movement'
“As a nation we are facing attack from terrorism,” Mr Jonathan told delegates at the Africa meeting of the World Economic Forum, which has been overshadowed by the mass kidnappings, two bombs in the capital, Abuja, and this week’s slaughter of civilians in a marketplace. “I believe that the kidnap of these girls will be the beginning of the end of terrorism in Nigeria.”
The Nigerian leader has been criticised for failing to take the girls’ predicament seriously until domestic and international pressure forced him to do so some two weeks after the 14 April incident, where Islamist militants snatched some 270 schoolgirls aged mainly between 16 and 18 years old from their dormitories at a school in the north-eastern state of Borno.
The military, often decried for its heavy-handed tactics, has been widely viewed as unequal to the task of taking on Boko Haram, whose name loosely translates as “Western education is forbidden”. Since 2009, the group has waged a bloody insurgency against the state, lately targeting schools, in a bid to create a medieval-style caliphate in Nigeria.
International offers of help have started to pour in, although many fear that it may be too late to trace the hostages amid the belief that the girls will already have been separated into small groups, with some already said to have been sold as “brides” in neighbouring Chad and Cameroon for as little as £8.
Despite its weak military ties with Nigeria, the US has agreed to send a team of up to 10 military personnel, comprising experts in logistics, communications and intelligence planning, to join State Department and Justice Department officers, to advise the Nigerians, although there is no current intention to launch any military operation.
British SAS liaison officers are understood to be already in Abuja, where they are looking at ways to assist rescue efforts. A team of Whitehall experts is to join them, including a senior military officer and civil servants from the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Speaking in the House of Commons, the Prime Minister David Cameron said it was vital that Britain stood up to “extreme Islamists” who oppose education and progress. “This is an act of pure evil. It has united people across the planet to stand with Nigeria to help find these children and return them to their parents,” he said.
France, which currently has troops in Mali, has said it will send a small team to Nigeria as well as deploying 3,000 troops in the region to fight terrorism, with its operations expected to extend across the Sahel belt, which includes Mali, Niger and Chad.
“A special team with all our resources in the region is at the disposal of Nigeria to help in the search and recovery of these young girls,” the French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told parliament on Wednesday.
Canada, meanwhile, has agreed to provide surveillance equipment to help the Nigerians track down the location of the girls, thought to be mainly in the Sambisa reserve.
Meanwhile, China, whose premier Li Keqiang is in Abuja this week, said it would provide intelligence and satellite support.
The former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, now a UN education envoy, unveiled a “safe schools initiative” at the forum, which would see the Nigerian business community putting up $10m (£5,9m) to enhance security at some 500 schools in the country.Reuse content