10 May 2014

Nigeria: Boko Haram Abductions Condemned By UN

The UN Security Council has unanimously condemned the mass abduction of school girls by Nigerian Boko Haram extremists. A growing world-wide clamor for the girls' release has been joined by US First Lady Michelle Obama.

The UN Security Council hinted at sanctions early Saturday to force the Islamist militant group Boko Haram to release hundreds of school girls kidnapped recently in northeastern Nigeria.

The council expressed "profound outrage" at the group's abduction of some 300 girls in mid-April and 8 girls on May 5 and its threats to sell them into slavery. Attacks by Boko Haram since 2009 had "caused large-scale" loss of life, it added.

The UN condemnation followed the arrival of US and British security experts in Nigeria to advise its government and a campaign by parents in Nigeria joined by US First Lady Michelle Obama and other celebrities on social media labelled BringBackOurGirls.

"In these girls, Barack and I see our own daughters," said Michelle Obama in a rare radio address usually made by the US president.

Michelle Obama said the abducted girls had been determined to sit exams at their school despite threats. What happened in Nigeria was "not an isolated incident."

"It's a story we see every day as girls around the world risk their lives to pursue their ambitions," she said.

Council hints at sanctions

UN council members said they would "consider appropriate measures" - diplomatic shorthand for sanctions - and also suggested that some acts might end up as "crimes against humanity," possibly before the International Criminal Court.

US ambassador Samantha Power said the council would act quickly to designate Boko Haram as a terrorist group.

"We must hold its murderous leaders to account," Power said, referring to more than 1,500 people killed this year, including 125 people killed when gunmen rampaged on Monday near Nigeria's border with Cameroon.

Weakness in Nigeria's armed forces was highlighted on Friday in Amnesty International findings that the military failed to heed warnings before the largest group of school girls was abducted from the town of Chibok on April 15.

"This abduction could have been prevented," said Amnesty spokeswoman Susanna Flood.

The government of Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan denies slow responses by the country's security forces. Nigeria's military on Thursday criticized what it called attempts by some civic groups to "drag the military into politics."

Residents of Chibok staged a street protest on Friday to press the regional government of Nigeria's eastern state of Borno to do more to find the missing girls.

Boko Haram, which wants to impose Sharia law on Nigeria, originally kidnapped 276 in April. Fifty-three escaped but 276 remain captive.

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