*It appears little has been done to locate the remaining 276 African girls who were kidnapped from the Chibok Government Girls Secondary School on April 15 and later claimed victims of the terrorist group, Boko Harem. An international outrage was sparked via social media after president Barack Obama referred to the story as “heartbreaking.”
Hopefully, with news from a meeting held today by leaders in West Africa, this is about to change.
West African leaders have agreed to work together and wage “total war” on Boko Haram – the terrorist group that kidnapped the girls from a school dormitory last month. Referring to the Nigerian Islamist group as a “regional al Qaeda” the leaders agree that the group serves as a threat to all of them.
Representatives from Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Benin, all neighboring countries of Nigeria, gathered with western officials for the first time to brainstorm on a plan; sharing for the first time, intelligence, and coordinating actions to monitor the country’s borders.
Before the massive kidnapping of the girls last month, Boko Haram had been considered a local terrorist group who, for the last five years, carried out bombings and attacks on civilians and the security forces. But the kidnapping brought them to international attention.
“Boko Haram is no longer a local terrorist group, it is operating clearly as an al Qaeda operation, it is an al Qaeda of West Africa,” Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan told a news conference in Paris following the meeting.
“We have shown our commitment for a regional approach. Without West African countries coming together we will not be able to crush these terrorists,” he said.
The number of kidnapped girls still alive is questionable. A recent video from Boko Haram, who is reportedly raping the girls and even selling them into marriage, purportedly shows 100 of the girls gathered together; but it is unclear when the video was taken.
Authorities say the current number of missing girls is 276 after 53 of them managed to escape.
“Yes, yes, I ran into the bush,” escapee Joy Bishara, 18, told The New York Times this week.
“I think they will kill me,” she remembered in plotting her escape. “They were telling us, ‘We will kill you.’”
Meanwhile, it was public outrage over his government’s slow response to the mass abduction that finally prompted Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan – criticized at home and abroad for – to accept help from the U.S., British and French intelligence.
British Foreign Minister William Hague said the Nigerian military was not organized in a way to deal effectively with the group, and offered military advisers to help structure them.
Boko Haram, a name that roughly translates to “Western education is forbidden,” has kidnapped other school girls and women in the past; using them as bargaining chips in their political schemes. This year alone they are said to have killed an estimated 1,000 people in the West African nation.