The US Department of Defense (DoD) is deploying a team of ten US Africa Command (AFRICOM) personnel to assist the Nigerian Government in the search of the schoolgirls abducted by terrorist group Boko Haram.
Pentagon spokesperson US Army colonel Steve Warren said the soldiers would coordinate with the Nigerian Government to assess what assistance the US can provide to the country, and will also advise and help the government with communications, logistics and intelligence missions.
"The Defense Department stands firmly with the people of Nigeria in their efforts to bring the terrorist violence perpetrated by Boko Haram to an end, while ensuring civilian protection and respect for human rights," Warren said.
The deployment comes after the Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan accepted a US offer of assistance, which also includes the establishment of an inter-agency coordination and assessment cell to support the country’s efforts to find and free the hostages.
The inter-agency team, comprising representatives from the State and Justice Departments, as well as other law enforcement agencies, is expected to reach the US Embassy in Abuja within days, according to Warren, who also noted that the US has no plans to carry out broader military operations.
More than 230 schoolgirls were kidnapped by Boko Haram militants from their secondary school in Chibok, north-eastern Nigeria, on 14 April. An additional eight teenage girls were then taken from the same area last week.
The terrorists had originally attempted to abduct more than 300 girls, but 50 managed to escape. However, two of them died due to snake bites, according to media reports.
In a 57-minute video obtained by Agence France Presse, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau has threatened to ‘sell’ the girls as ‘slaves’ in the market.