US team to help Nigeria locate kidnapped girls

US team to help Nigeria locate kidnapped girls

Credit: AFP/Getty Images

One of the mothers of the missing Chibok school girls wipes her tears as she cries during a rally by civil society groups pressing for the release of the girls in Abuja on May 6, 2014, ahead of World Economic Forum. Members of civil society groups marched through the streets of Abuja and to the Nigerian defence headquarters to meet with military chiefs, to press for the release of more than 200 Chibok school girls abducted three weeks ago. Suspected Boko Haram Islamists have kidnapped eight more girls from Nigeria's embattled northeast, residents said on May 6, after the extremist group's leader claimed responsibility for abducting more than 200 schoolgirls last month and said in a video he was holding them as 'slaves' and threatened to 'sell them in the market'. AFP PHOTO/PIUS UTOMI EKPEI (Photo credit should read PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images)

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by JOHN BACON

USA TODAY

Posted on May 6, 2014 at 1:06 PM

Updated Tuesday, May 6 at 1:27 PM

Suspected members of Nigeria's notorious Islamic extremist group Boko Haram kidnapped eight more girls from a village in northeastern Nigeria on Tuesday, Sky News reported, citing police and residents.

The BBC also reported the abductions, but had few details.

Sky News said the girls, ages 12 to 15, were abducted in Warabe, near one of the Islamist militant group's strongholds.

"They were many, and all of them carried guns. They came in two vehicles painted in army color," local resident Lazarus Musa told Sky News. "They started shooting in our village."

A police source, who declined to identify himself to the news agency, said the girls were taken away on trucks, along with stolen livestock and food.

The attack comes a day after Boko Haram's leader, Abubakar Shekau, released a video in which he threatened to sell almost 300 schoolgirls abducted from another school three weeks ago.

"By Allah, I will sell them in the marketplace," he states in the video, in which he refers to the captives as his "slaves." The video also features militants firing rifles in the air and crying "Allahu akbar!" or "God is great."

The video also warns that his group plans to attack more schools and abduct more girls.

Boko Haram translates as "sinful Western education." Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation with about 175 million people, is roughly split between Christians, who dominate southern Nigeria, and Muslims, who hold the majority in the north. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan's government has drawn criticism for failing to act strongly against Boko Haram.

The kidnappings and similar attacks have fueled protests around the world — and panic in Nigeria. The Lagos daily Punch website reports on pandemonium in the Abuja, Nigeria'a capital, in the early hours of Tuesday after a rumor that a school bus had been hijacked by gunmen suspected to be members of Boko Haram.

"Parents were said to be running helter-skelter, hurriedly withdrawing their wards from both private and public schools around Nyanya and Maraba as the rumor gained ground of the abduction," the website reports. Punch said the rumor turned out to be false.

On Monday, the White House pledged its support to the Nigerian government.

"We are doing everything we can to assist Nigeria in their efforts," White House spokesman Jay Carney said. "We will continue to provide counterterrorism assistance to help Nigerian authorities to combat Boko Haram."

Carney says Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated the offer during a conversation Tuesday with Nigerian President Jonathan and said "time is of the essence." He urged the Nigerian government to ensure that it is using all available resources to ensure the safe return of the girls.

Carney says the U.S. team would include military and law enforcement personnel capable of sharing with the Nigerians expertise in intelligence, investigations, hostage negotiating and victim assistance.

President Barack Obama and Kerry were to discuss the issue at a White House meeting Tuesday afternoon.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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