The United Kingdom hinted on Sunday that it could send troops to Nigeria if requested by President Goodluck Jonathan as part of efforts to rescue the over 200 female pupils abducted by Boko Haram insurgents from their school hostel in Chibok, Borno State on April 14.
Prime Minister David Cameron made this known just as Pope Francis prayed for the safe rescue of the girls.
Cameron, who has also joined the growing list of global personalities that have enlisted in the ‘‘Bring Back Our Girls,’’ social media campaign, said while featuring on the British Broadcasting Corporation’s Andrew Marr show, that
Britain “will do what we can” to help find the female pupils.”
Fellow guest and Cable News Network Chief International Correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, had handed the Prime Minister the sign and asked if he would like to join the campaign.
Taking it from her, he replied, “Happily.” He later tweeted, “Proud to support ‘BringBackOurGirls.’
He also told the BBC One programme that he “ rang the Nigerian President(Dr. Goodluck Jonathan) to offer anything that would be helpful” in locating and freeing the girls.
Cameron added, “We agreed to send out a team that includes some counter-terrorism and intelligence experts to work alongside the bigger American team that’s going out there(Nigeria).
“We stand ready to do anything more than the Nigerians would want.”
He said it was unlikely Nigeria would ask for British troops to help but stated, “I said to President Jonathan where we can help, please ask, and we will see what we can do.”
Cameron also spoke of the importance of tackling extremism around the world.
“This is not just a problem in Nigeria,” he said. “We’re seeing this really violent extreme Islamism – we see problems in Pakistan, we see problems in other parts of Africa, problems in the Middle East.
“Also, let’s be frank, here in the UK, there is still too much support for extremism that we have to tackle, whether it’s in schools or colleges or universities or wherever.”
He recognised that it was not an easy task to locate and rescue the girls.
The Prime Minister said, “We can’t just pile in and do whatever we’d like. “It’s immensely complicated because they are probably in this deep area of a jungle that is three times the size of Wales.
“But it’s good that efforts are being stepped up and we’ll do what we can.”
The British Foreign Office believes there are “large information gaps” because of the scale and nature of the incident.
“The priority for the team in the first instance is establishing the facts such as the precise identities of those taken and what has actually happened to help Nigeria build a better picture,” an unnamed spokesman for the office said.
During the programme, Amanpour told Marr about the social media drive, saying, “On the one hand, the hashtag is great because it mobilises people.
“On the other hand, I’m a tiny bit concerned it’s a big bubble that then collapses with nothing really being done.”
However she said Nigeria is “100% saturated with social media” and that “this (campaign) is really getting to the people in the country.”
Using the campaign poster, Pope Francis also tweeted his support by writing, “Let us all join in prayer for the immediate release of the schoolgirls kidnapped in Nigeria.”
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister, Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu, has promised to send a team of counter-terrorism experts to assist in the ongoing search and rescue operations for the schoolgirls.
According to a statement on Sunday by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, Netanyahu made the promise in a telephone conversation with Jonathan on Sunday.
Abati said the Israeli leader called the President to convey his country’s sympathy and solidarity with Nigeria on the abduction as well as insurgency being experienced in parts of the country.
He quoted the Prime Minister as saying that the experts who would soon arrive in Nigeria, would work with their Nigerian counterparts and teams from the United States and Britain who are already in the country.
Abati further quoted Jonathan as expressing optimism that with the global support so far received by the Federal Government, success would soon be recorded in the search for the girls.
The statement reads in part, “President Jonathan said on Sunday in Abuja that he was very optimistic that with the entire international community deploying its considerable military and intelligence-gathering skills and assets in support of Nigeria’s efforts to find and rescue the abducted Chibok girls, success would soon be achieved.
“President Jonathan welcomed the offer by Mr. Netanyahu to send a team of Israeli counter-terrorism experts to assist in the ongoing search and rescue operations.
“The President briefed Mr. Netanyahu on actions already being taken by Nigeria’s armed forces and security agencies to locate and rescue the girls, saying that Nigeria would be pleased to have Israel’s globally-acknowledged anti-terrorism expertise deployed to support its ongoing operations.
“Mr. Netanyahu who expressed Israel’s total condemnation of the mass abductions… reaffirmed Israel’s willingness to give the government and people of Nigeria all possible support and assistance to overcome terrorism and insecurity.”
But as the global offer of assistance continues , one of the girls, who escaped from the abductors has said the experience was “too terrifying for words,” and that she was now scared of going back to school.
Sarah Lawan, a 19-year-old science student, spoke out on Sunday as Nigerians prayed for the safety of other students still held captive.
Lawan told the Associated Press that more of the girls could have escaped but were frightened by their captors’ threats to shoot them.
“I am pained that my other colleagues could not summon the courage to run away with me.Now, I cry each time I come across their parents and see how they weep when they see me,” she said in Hausa during a telephone interview from Chibok.
Lawan said other girls who escaped later have told her that the abductors spoke of their plans to marry them.
She said the thought of going back to school terrifies her.
“I am really scared to go back there; but I have no option if I am asked to go because I need to finish my final year exams which were stopped half way through,” she said.