UK & World News

  • 16 May 2014, 6:51

Nigeria President To Visit Abducted Girls' Town

Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan will today visit the town where more than 200 schoolgirls were kidnapped by Islamic militants, as he faces mounting international criticism of his handling of the crisis.

Accompanied by heavily armed guards, Mr Jonathan will make the journey to Chibok in Borno state - the heartland of the Boko Harammilitant group - and meet some of the girls' families.

Afterwards he is due to fly to Paris for a security summit to discuss the Boko Haram threat.

Mr Jonathan and his government have been widely criticised for their slow response to the kidnapping on April 14, which saw 276 girls abducted by militants. A total of 223 are still missing.

But they were forced to act in the face of a social media campaign and street protests that won global support and attracted the attention of foreign powers, who have now sent specialist teams to help in the rescue effort.

In the US, which has sent drones and surveillance aircraft, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations said Nigeria had been "tragically and unacceptably slow" to tackle the crisis.

"I have called on President (Goodluck) Jonathan to demonstrate the leadership his nation is demanding," Democratic senator Robert Menendez said.

Department of Defence official Alice Friend said Nigeria, which has previously resisted outside help to put down the five-year insurgency, could be "an extremely challenging partner to work with".

"In the face of this sophisticated threat, Nigeria's security forces have been slow to adapt with new strategies and new tactics," she added.

Mr Jonathan has ruled out a prisoner swap with the extremists after Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau mooted the possibility in a video showing the kidnapped schoolgirls released on Monday.

But the government said it remained open to wider talks on ending the insurgency, Britain's minister for Africa Mark Simmonds told reporters in Abuja after meeting Mr Jonathan on Wednesday.

Relatives of the missing girls have called for their unconditional release.

"For me, I want these girls released without any negotiations," said Ayuba Chibok, whose niece is among the hostages.

"Even if Boko Haram wants to request something from the government, let them request something else. Let (Shekau) release these girls unconditionally."

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