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Schools in Nigeria capital closing for security ‘US to do everything possible to aid girls rescue’

ADDIS ABABA, May 3, (Agencies): US Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday vowed that Washington will do “everything possible” to help Nigeria deal with Boko Haram militants, following the kidnapping of scores of schoolgirls. “Let me be clear. The kidnapping of hundreds of children by Boko Haram is an unconscionable crime,” Kerry said in a policy speech in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. “We will do everything possible to support the Nigerian government to return these young women to their homes and hold the perpetrators to justice. That is our responsibility and the world’s responsibility,” he said.

The US, he added, was “working to strengthen Nigeria’s institutions and its military to combat Boko Haram’s campaign of terror and violence”. Gunmen believed to be Islamist fighters stormed the girls’ boarding school in the country’s northeast nearly three weeks ago, forcing them from their dormitories onto trucks and driving them into the bush after a gun battle with soldiers. Nigerian police on Friday said Boko Haram militants were holding 223 girls of the 276 seized from the school, revising upwards the number of youngsters abducted. The girls’ abduction has triggered global outrage and prompted protests in a number of Nigerian cities, as desperate parents call on the government to secure their release.

Nigerian mothers on Saturday vowed to hold more protests to push a greater rescue effort from authorities. Meanwhile, all schools and government offices in Nigeria’s capital will close during a three-day international conference next week, according to a presidential order that follows two bomb attacks in three weeks that killed nearly 100 people in Abuja. A statement Friday night said the measure “is to ease the flow of traffic” during the May 7-9 World Economic Forum on Africa to which hundreds of international personalities, business and African leaders are invited. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is the guest of honor.

The government has said it is deploying 6,000 police and troops to help secure the event, and President Goodluck Jonathan has assured delegates they will be safe. Further indicating Nigeria’s security threats, the US Embassy warned Americans in an email Friday that extremists were planning “an unspecified attack” on a Sheraton hotel in Nigeria’s commercial capital, Lagos. The hotel chain has two locally owned franchises in the southwestern city of about 20 million people. A duty manager at the $350-a-night Sheraton in Ikeja suburb, near the international airport, said he was unaware of any threat. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to reporters

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