World powers join hunt for abducted girls

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iol news pic may7 Nigeria Kidnapped Girls~12

AP

Protestors march in front of the Nigerian embassy in northwest Washington, protesting the kidnapping of nearly 300 teenage schoolgirls, abducted from a school in the remote northeast of Nigeria three weeks ago. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Kano, Nigeria - World powers, including the United States and China, said Wednesday they would join in the hunt for more than 200 schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram Islamists who also killed hundreds in northeastern Nigeria this week.

As shock reverberated over the mass abduction of the teenagers, the United States and France said they would send specialist teams to Nigeria, while London agreed to deploy “satellite imaging capabilities.”

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

The police on Wednesday offered $300 000 ( 215 000 euros) for information leading to the rescue of the girls.

The flurry of effort to track the girls coincided with gruesome details emerging from an attack by Boko Haram which razed the town of Gamboru Ngala on the border with Cameroon this week, firing on civilians as they fled.

Area Senator Ahmed Zanna said 300 were killed, citing information provided by locals, in an account supported by numerous residents.

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A woman attends a demonstration calling on the government to increase efforts to rescue the 276 missing kidnapped school girls of a government secondary school Chibok, in Lagos, Nigeria. (AP Photo/ Sunday Alamba)

AP

Zanna said the town had been 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 widely criticised, including by activists and parents of the hostages who say the military's 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 years were seized Sunday from Gwoza, an area not far from Chibok. All the targeted villages fell in Borno state, Boko Haram's base.

The group's five-year uprising has killed thousands across Africa's most populous country and top economy, with many questioning whether Nigeria has the capacity to contain the violence.

Islamist fighters riding in armoured trucks and on motorcycles stormed Gamboru Ngala after midday on Monday.

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Women attend a demonstration calling on the government to rescue the kidnapped school girls of a government secondary school Chibok, outside the defense headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

AP

The extremists overran the town, making it too dangerous for locals to immediately return, survivors said.

When the militants left, residents discovered their town “littered” with dead bodies, Musa Abba, a witness, told AFP.

“All economic and business centres have been burnt. The market in the town which attracts traders from all over the area... has been completely burnt,” the senator said.

Gamboru Ngala has been attacked repeatedly in the past but Abba said “this (was) the worst Boko Haram attack (the town) has seen”.

The assault prompted Cameroon's army to reinforce security in the town of Fotokol on the Nigerian border, a medical source told AFP by phone, requesting anonymity.

“The toll is very heavy. We believe there are more than 200 dead,” the source said, adding that 2 000 Nigerians, including soldiers had fled to Cameroon.

“Some of the bodies were charred. It was horrific. People had their throats slit, others were shot,” the source added.

US President Barack Obama has described the Chibok abductions as “heartbreaking” and “outrageous”, and announced that a team of military experts had been sent to help Nigeria's rescue mission.

British Prime Minister David Cameron on Wednesday condemned the kidnappers as “pure evil” and said that a small team of planning and coordinating specialists will head to Nigeria to advise on the search.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said a “special team” was at Nigeria's disposal, while Jonathan said that visiting Chinese Premier Li Keqiang had also pledged assistance.

Analysts said Jonathan's acceptance of Western military assistance suggested an admission that he can no longer manage the Boko Haram uprising without help.

As well as mounting pressure over the kidnappings, Nigeria has been hit by a spate of bombings.

Just a few hours before the mass abduction in Chibok, a car bombing at a bus station on the outskirts of Abuja killed 75 people in the deadliest attack to hit the capital.

A copycat bombing at the same station killed 19 people on May 1.

To contain the violence, Jonathan had last May imposed a state of emergency in the northeast where he sent thousands of troops to flush out the insurgents, but critics say the offensive has achieved almost nothing.

Jonathan had hoped that a World Economic Forum summit which opened in Abuja on Wednesday would highlight Nigeria's economic progress.

Meeting Jonathan in Abuja ahead of the summit, China's Li pledged stronger cooperation with Nigeria, Africa's top oil producer, but public focus has remained fixed on Boko Haram.

Amid the outrage over the kidnappings and the twin attack just a few kilometres from central Abuja, Nigeria has promised the World Economic Forum will be kept safe by the 6,000 troops deployed across the capital.

The police said in a statement Wednesday evening that it has not recorded any security hitch so far during the conference, dubbed 'Africa's Davos'.

“So far, activities and proceedings at the huge economic event have been without any security hitch or breach whatsoever,” said the statement.

The police said it was committed to “ensuring a peaceful and successful event.”

Sapa-AFP


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