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Nigeria's president held a security meeting late Saturday in to the early hours Sunday morning, calling for intensified efforts to rescue hundreds of school girls kidnapped by a local terror group more than two weeks ago, officials said.
President Goodluck Jonathan assured that "wherever the girls are in the world, we will get them back, apprehend and punish the culprits," his Minister of Information Labaran Maku said in a statement.
The young girls were abducted from a secondary school by the Nigerian Islamist militant group Boko Haram on April 14.
Police said last week that 276 remain in captivity, after 53 managed to escape, according to The Associated Press.
Mothers in Nigeria have marched in protest of the Nigerian government’s inaction, and a #BringBackOurGirls Twitter campaign launched rallies in cities across the U.S., and in London.
“Jonathan has to show that he is actively doing something” because of the protests and the upcoming World Economic Forum, set to take place in Nigeria’s capital on Wednesday, said Veryan Khan, who has studied the group in depth as executive director of the Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium.
Mausi Segun, Nigeria researcher for Human Rights Watch, agreed that the international attention “forced [Jonathan’s] hands,” and said he shouldn't have waited “until the people took to the streets and used social media to galvanize international interest to carry out his obligations to the abducted girls and their families.”
Without disclosing specifics, the U.S. and Britain promised to help find the girls, following reports that Boko Haram — which translates to “Western education is sinful” — is selling the girls into marriages for as little as $12.
"The kidnapping of hundreds of children by Boko Haram is an unconscionable crime and we will do everything possible to support the Nigerian government to return these young women to their homes and to hold the perpetrators to justice," said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday, in a speech in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. “We are working to strengthen Nigeria's institutions and its military to combat Boko Haram,” Kerry said.
“He usually only asks for help from nations that he knows will not try to have input/influence over what he does.”
In a “media chat,” Jonathan said he is discussing the offered aid with the U.S., Segun told NBC News.
But Veryan isn’t hopeful Jonathan will seek anything more than monetary assistance. “He usually only asks for help from nations that he knows will not try to have input/influence over what he does,” Veryan wrote in an email to NBC News.
If Jonathan allows the U.S. to get involved, “he would have to account for his military’s activity, something I am sure he is reluctant to do,” Veryan said.
Maku said security chiefs told Jonathan, Vice President Namadi Sambo and Defense Minister General Aliyu Gusau that “every information relayed to security agencies has so far been investigated, including the search of all places suspected as a possible hide-away of the kidnapped girls.”
"Wherever the girls are in the world, we will get them back, apprehend and punish the culprits."
“The President shares in the pain and anguish of the parents and guardians of the Chibok girls abducted by the terrorists, whilst his heart goes out to these our unfortunate daughters who have had to endure the trauma of abduction and separation from their loved ones,” the statement said.
Segun said only time will tell “how effective his new resolve to step up the search for the girls will go.”