White House says US team is helping in Nigeria


McClatchy Washington Bureau

A U.S. team that includes FBI officials with hostage negotiation skills is in Nigeria to help with the search for the nearly 300 abducted schoolgirls, the White House said Monday.

The administration detailed the size and scope of the team for the first time, with White House Press Secretary Jay Carney saying it includes five State Department officials, including a team leader, two strategic communications experts, a civilian security expert, and a regional medical support officer. There are also 10 Department of Defense planners and advisers who were already in Nigeria and have been redirected to provide support to the kidnapping response, Carney said.

Seven additional Defense advisers from AFRICOM, the U.S. Africa Command, are also assisting, along with four FBI officials with expertise in safe recovery, negotiations, and preventing future kidnappings.

The girls were taken more than three weeks ago from their school dormitory by the Boko Haram terrorist group, which reportedly said in a video that the young women will not be seen again unless the Nigerian government agrees to a prisoner swap with detained members of the group.

Carney said U.S. intelligence experts “are combing over every detail of (the videotape) for clues that might help in the ongoing efforts to secure the release of the girls."

Carney said the team has the ability to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, but he wouldn’t provide any details of what technology it might have, such as aerial drones.

Nigeria has traditionally been reluctant to accept U.S. government help, but Carney said the offer was accepted. Still, he noted that the U.S. team’s role is “to advise and assist the Nigerian government in an effort that the Nigerian government is leading to find and free those girls.”

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