(Photo: Afolabi Sotunde / Reuters)
The United States has offered to help the Nigerian government locate a large number of girls believed to have been abducted by the terrorist group Boko Haram.
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters on Thursday that the US has been and will continue to help Nigeria regarding the mass abduction and overall antiterrorism efforts.
"We have been engaged with the Nigerian government in discussions on what we might do to help support their efforts to find and free these young women," said Harf.
"We will continue to have those discussions and help in any way we can …We know Boko Haram is active in the area and we have worked very closely with the Nigerian government to build their capacity to fight this threat."
Harf also stated that "for fiscal year 2012, we provided over $20 million in security assistance to Nigeria."
"Part of what that does is help professionalize their military, investigate terrorist attacks and enhance their forensics capabilities, and we've worked with law enforcement there as well to help build their capacity as well," said Harf.
For several months, Northern Nigeria has been a source of violent extremism on the part of the Isalmic terrorist group Boko Haram. Churches and Christian neighborhoods have been the chief targets, with several hundreds having been killed. In response to the violence in the north, the Nigerian government sent troops to the area and have made efforts to crack down on Boko Haram and similar organizations.
Last month, the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok was raided by Boko Haram, which kidnapped over 200 girls enrolled at the academic institute.
Groups like the Christian Association of Nigerian-Americans has called on Nigerian President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan to take action. "There is no longer room for half-measures or political posturing by the political elite in the country," stated Laolu Akande, executive director of CANAN.
"The Nigerian military has to be actively enhanced to carry out its responsibility including taking care of the welfare of the soldiers on the frontline."
Since their abduction, reports have surfaced that the school girls are being sold off to Boko Haram militants as brides for the equivalent of 12 American dollars.
Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois referred to the latest news as "an abomination and an affront to the civilized world."
"I am additionally horrified to learn of reports that, for the mere act of seeking an education, the kidnapped girls are being sold into child marriage, a despicable practice that may rob them of their dignity, health, and freedom," said Durbin.
"We and our African allies should do what we can to help the Nigerian government rescue these innocent girls from the barbaric Boko Haram and return them swiftly to their families."