U.S. offers to help Nigeria find kidnapped schoolgirls
(CNN) By Barbara Starr and Tom Cohen — The United States is offering its help, but making clear it is up to the Nigerian government to take the lead in rescuing more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram.
President Barack Obama is being briefed on the matter and pressure is mounting worldwide for the Nigerian government to act.
Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States "will do everything possible to support the Nigerian government to return these young women to their homes and to hold the perpetrators to justice."
"We are sharing intelligence that may be relevant to this situation," a U.S. official with direct knowledge of the situtation said on condition of not being identified due to the sensitive nature of the information.
"You are going to see a focus on this in all three channels of government: diplomatic, intelligence and military."
The U.S. military is not planning to send troops, but could consider helping Nigerian forces with any planning for a rescue mission, under existing military cooperation agreements, said a second official with knowledge of the situation.
U.S. Africa Command has long been helping Nigerian forces improve their training and operations to counter Boko Haram militants.
The United States could offer satellite imagery and electronic intelligence such as communications intercepts in the effort to rescue the kidnapped girls.
Boko Haram means "Western education is sin," and a video made public Monday shows a man claiming to be the group's leader saying the girls should get married instead of going to school.
"I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah," the man purporting to be Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau said in the video first obtained by Agence France-Presse.
"There is a market for selling humans.Allah says I should sell. He commands me to sell. I will sell women. I sell women," he continued, according to a CNN translation from the local Hausa language.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said Sunday that his government would free the girls, who were kidnapped on April 14.
According to accounts, armed members of Boko Haram overwhelmed security guards at a school in a remote region, pulled the girls out of bed and forced them into trucks.
The convoy then disappeared into a forest bordering Cameroon.
The total number kidnapped was 276, according to Nigerian authorities.
At least 53 escaped, leaving 223 missing, police said. One of the officials who spoke to CNN said the scope and scale of the Boko Haram attack was worrisome because it showed the "brazen" lengths the group will go to and suggested a planning and logistics capability for a large-scale operation.