President Barack Obama called the kidnapping of more than 200 girls in Nigeria "awful" and pledged Tuesday that the U.S. will do "everything it can" to help the Nigerian government track down the abductors.
"As a father of two girls, I can't imagine what the parents are going through," Obama said in a Rose Garden interview with CBS.
Nigeria's president has accepted a U.S. offer to have a team of experts help with efforts to locate more than 200 girls abducted three weeks ago by a group the U.S. considers a terrorist organization.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan accepted Secretary of State John Kerry’s offer of assistance in a phone call Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said.
The U.S. embassy offered to create an “interdisciplinary team,” Carney said, that would include U.S. military personnel and law enforcement officials with expertise in investigations and hostage negotiations.
Carney said the U.S. isn’t considering sending military troops to the country, but that Obama “has directed that we do everything we can to help the Nigerian government.” The girls were seized from their school overnight three weeks ago by gunmen with the radical Islamist group, Boko Haram.
An extremist Nigerian insurgent leader boasted Monday that he had kidnapped more than 270 schoolgirls and planned to sell them.
Obama called the group "one of the worst regional terrorist organizations in the world" and said once the girls are recovered, "we're going to have to more broadly tackle a pernicious problem inside that country."
He told ABC that the kidnapping "may be the event that helps to mobilize the entire international community to finally do something against this horrendous organization."
Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters that the U.S. has been in engaged in the situation since "day one," but the Nigerian government "had its own set of strategies, if you will" -- that didn't include U.S. help.
But, he said, "the complications that have arisen have convinced everybody that there needs to be a greater effort, and it will begin immediately. I mean literally immediately."
Kerry said the State Department and embassy have been in touch with the Nigerian government and the U.S. Africa Command "and I think you’re going to see a very, very rapid response."
Kerry, who was to meet with Obama in the afternoon to talk about the situation, said the U.S. would "do everything in our power to able to be helpful."
"We’re going to send a team, and it’ll be a combined team ready to work," Kerry said. "But you have to have a host country that’s ready to receive and work with you in any situation, and we’re prepared to work."