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‘No US troops’ on Boko Haram

WASHINGTON, May 11, (Agencies): The United States has no plans to send troops to Nigeria to help recover hundreds of schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in an interview broadcast on Sunday. “There’s no intention, at this point, to (put) American boots on the ground,” Hagel told ABC television’s “This Week” program. Washington last week sent a team of military advisers as part of an international effort to help Nigeria find the girls, who were abducted nearly a month ago by the extremist Islamic group. The US defense chief was far from upbeat about chances of finding the girls. “It will be very difficult. It’s a vast country. This is not going to be an easy task,” Hagel said, in the interview recorded Saturday.

“We’re going to bring to bear every asset we can possibly use to help the Nigerian government,” he said. Boko Haram, whose name is loosely translated as “Western education is forbidden” kidnapped the girls from their dormitory on April 14, and has threatened to sell them. The incident has drawn worldwide outrage, including from US President Barack Obama. First Lady Michelle Obama in a recorded message on Saturday condemned the kidnappings as “unconscionable.” Israel offered Nigeria help on Sunday in locating 200 schoolgirls abducted last month by Islamist rebel group Boko Haram in an attack that has drawn global condemnation and prompted some Western powers to provide assistance. “Israel expresses deep shock at the crime against the girls,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office quoted him as telling Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan by phone. “We are ready to help in finding the girls and fighting the cruel terrorism inflicted on you.” The statement did not elaborate on how Israel might enlist in the search, with which British and US experts are also helping. Aspokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry said he knew of no cooperation efforts under way. Israel has defence ties with Nigeria, and has provided it in the past with surveillance drones. Last September, Israel was among several countries that sent advisers to Kenya to assist in a stand-off with Islamist gunmen who attacked a mall in Nairobi.

Islamic extremists blew up a bridge, killed an unknown number of people and abducted the wife and two children of a retired police officer in northeast Nigeria, residents said Saturday amid mounting condemnation by Muslims of the Nigerian terrorist network that abducted more than 300 schoolgirls nearly a month ago. News of Friday night’s attack came as international efforts to help rescue the 276 girls still missing got under way. A team of French experts arrived Saturday in Nigeria, said an official in President Francois Hollande’s office in Paris. He said they are expert in collecting intelligence from technical and human sources and in image analysis.

British security experts arrived Friday to join Nigerian and American forces, and Britain said its aim is not only to help in the crisis over the girls but to defeat Nigeria’s homegrown Boko Haram terrorist network. International outrage at the prolonged failure of Nigeria’s military to rescue the girls was joined Saturday by US first lady Michelle Obama. In a radio address on the eve of the Sunday honoring mothers in the United States she said she and President Barack Obama are “outraged and heartbroken” over the April 15 mass abduction. “In these girls, Barack and I see our own daughters,” Mrs. Obama said, referring to Malia, 15, and Sasha, 12. “We see their hopes, their dreams and we can only imagine the anguish their parents are feeling right now.”

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