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IN THE NEWS - Nigeria Welcomes Help in Search for Kidnapped Students

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People demand the release of kidnapped school girls in the remote village of Chibok, in Lagos May 9, 2014. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye
People demand the release of kidnapped school girls in the remote village of Chibok, in Lagos May 9, 2014. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye

From VOA Learning English, this is In The News.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan promised this week to find hundreds of missing schoolgirls. The girls were taken from a secondary school in northern Nigeria on April 14.

The Islamic militant group Boko Haram claimed responsibility on Monday for kidnapping the students. The group released a video recording of its leader, Abubakar Shekau. In the video, he says, "I abducted your girls… By Allah, I will sell them in the marketplace."

International reaction came quickly. French President Francois Hollande spoke with the Nigerian president by telephone on Wednesday. Mr. Hollande said his country would immediately send security agents to help find the missing students.

France has more than 4,000 troops in two other African countries: Mali and the Central African Republic. The French government has voiced concern that Boko Haram's influence could spread across the Nigerian border.

In the United States, President Barack Obama was among the world leaders who condemned the militant group and the kidnappings.

"It's a heartbreaking situation, an outrageous situation. This may be the event that helps to mobilize the entire international community – to finally do something against this horrendous organization."

Michelle Obama on #BringBackOurGirls
Michelle Obama on #BringBackOurGirls

President Obama's wife Michelle showed support for the kidnapped girls on social media. She left a message and picture of herself on both Facebook and Twitter. The message said her thoughts and prayers were with the girls and their families. In her words, "It's time to #BringBackOurGirls."

The United States is sending military experts, criminal investigators and hostage negotiators to help find the girls. A Defense Department official told reporters on Wednesday that a handful of military advisers -- less than 10 -- were going to the Nigerian capital, Abuja. Colonel Steve Warren also said there are no plans for a U.S. military operation.

"Their mission there is simply to assess and advise. These personnel will be experts in areas to include communications, logistics, intelligence, all of the functionalities that we believe will be helpful."

Other countries also have offered to help Nigeria. Britain has promised to provide satellite imagery. China says it will train military officials and help improve Nigeria's ability to gather intelligence.

Boko Haram has been blamed for thousands of deaths since the group launched operations against the Nigerian government in 2009. The campaign is aimed at establishing Islamic rule. In English, the name of the group means "Western education is sinful."

The militants have been most active in northeast Nigeria. The government declared emergency rule in three northeastern states a year ago. But efforts by the military to crush or contain the rebellion have been unsuccessful.

At least 125 people were killed on Monday when gunmen attacked a market in a town near the border with Cameroon. A day later, eight other girls reportedly were seized in a village near where the schoolgirls were kidnapped. Villagers accused Boko Haram of carrying out the attack.

Nigerian police have offered a $300,000 reward for information leading to the location and the rescue of the kidnap victims.

And that's In The News from VOA Learning English. I'm Steve Ember.

For the latest information on this story, go to www.unsv.com.

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