(CNSNews.com) – Amid a swelling international outcry over the kidnapping of scores of Nigerian schoolgirls by Islamist terrorists, Secretary of State John Kerry at the weekend again pledged U.S. support for efforts to locate and rescue them.
“The kidnapping of hundreds of children by Boko Haram is an unconscionable crime, and we will do everything possible to support the Nigerian government to return these young women to their homes and to hold the perpetrators to justice,” he said in a speech in the Ethiopian capital, Ethiopia.
“I will tell you, my friends, I have seen this scourge of terror across the planet, and so have you,” he continued. “They don't offer anything except violence. They don’t offer a health care plan, they don’t offer schools. They don't tell you how to build a nation, they don’t talk about how they will provide jobs. They just tell people, ‘You have to behave the way we tell you to,’ and they will punish you if you don’t.
“Our responsibility and the world’s responsibility is to stand up against that kind if nihilism,” Kerry said.
Almost three weeks after the abduction, a massive social media campaign for the more than 200 missing girls and demonstrations held in a number of cities around the world, appear to have goaded Nigeria’s president into action.
President Goodluck Jonathan called a high-level meeting that ended in the early hours of Sunday morning with orders to top security officials to get the girls safely home.
Previous meetings have been held on the issue but Nigerian media said this one differed in that it involved people ranging from top security and police chiefs, lawmakers, the governor of the state where the incident occurred, and a delegation of parents of some of the missing girls.
“The president has given very clear directives that everything must be done to ensure that these girls must be brought back to safety,” presidential spokesman Reuben Abati said afterwards.
Later on Sunday, Jonathan in a television appearance defended his government’s handling of the crisis, which comes amid a long and bloody campaign against Boko Haram.
From the day of the abductions until now, he said, “security personnel have been searching everywhere. All the information that have been volunteered to us, we’ve searched the places. We have used aircraft, helicopters that have the ability to scan what is on the surfaces. And we have scanned.”
Although he acknowledged those efforts had not succeed in locating the girls, he vowed to do so. “Wherever they are, we will surely get them back.”
The students were seized when Boko Haram raided a government secondary school in the predominantly Christian town of Chibok in Nigeria’s north-eastern Borno state on April 14, and took them away in trucks. The group’s leader, in an earlier video message, had warned of plans to seize “infidel women” to serve as “slaves.”
Growing frustration over the lack of action and information from the authorities rippled out slowly from the affected community to the capital, Abuja, before the issue started to make waves around the world.
Demonstrations were held at the weekend in cities including Washington, New York and London, and in recent days some of the most prominent names on the planet have joined many others tweeting and retweeting messages on Twitter, using the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls.
Hillary Clinton’s tweet on the issue (“Access to education is a basic right & an unconscionable reason to target innocent girls. We must stand up to terrorism.”) to her 1.3 million followers was itself retweeted almost 6,000 times in seven hours on Sunday. Singer Mary J. Blige sent a message to her 4.8 million followers.
Information from the authorities has been paltry, with even the exact number of affected girls uncertain. The Nigerian Police most recently put the number of those believed to be still missing at around 223.
The Christian Association of Nigeria on Sunday released an list of names of 180 of those it says are among those missing – 165 Christians and 15 Muslims.
Waging a violent campaign against “Western” education and in favor of shari’a across Africa’s most populous country, Boko Haram has targeted mostly Christians in their attacks.
The schoolgirls’ plight brought together Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. Senate late Thursday, with senior members of both parties introducing a resolution condemning the abductions and urging the U.S. to provide “civilian assistance” in efforts to rescue the students.
It also encouraged U.S. government efforts “to support the capacity of the government of Nigeria to provide security for schools and to hold terrorist organizations, such as Boko Haram, accountable,” and encouraged the Nigerian government to “strengthen efforts to protect the ability of children to obtain an education.”
The resolution was introduced by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Chris Coons (D-Dela.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.).