Nigeria's president said Thursday he was declaring "total war" against the Islamist militant group that in April abducted more than 200 schoolgirls in the northeastern state of Borno.
"I am determined to protect our democracy, our national unity and our political stability, by waging a total war against terrorism," President Goodluck Jonathan said in a televised speech on Nigeria's Democracy Day, a public holiday.
Jonathan said he had ordered security forces to use any means necessary under the law to crush Boko Haram, which says it is fighting for an Islamic state in Nigeria.
"I assure you that Nigeria will be safe again and that these thugs will be driven away," Jonathan said. "It will not happen overnight, but we will spare no effort to achieve this goal."
It was not immediately clear what steps the country will take to quash the militants. The northeast of the country has been under a state of emergency and a full-scale military operation for a year.
The schoolgirls went missing April 14 after Boko Haram militants surrounded a secondary school in the remote northeastern village of Chibok and seized 276 girls who had been taking exams.
The militants first vowed to sell the girls into slavery and then said they would free them only in exchange for the release of military prisoners.
The terror group has killed at least 500 civilians since the day of the girls' kidnapping, according to a Reuters count.
The United States has deployed surveillance drones, spy planes and roughly 30 civilian and military specialists to aid Nigeria's security forces in the hunt for the missing schoolgirls.
Nigeria has said it knows the whereabouts of the abducted girls. But U.S. military officials were quick to say that they could not confirm the report.
— Daniel Arkin, with Reuters
First published May 29 2014, 12:43 PM