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New kidnapping reported in Nigeria as US offers help

Members of the Chibok community in Abuja, Nigeria, rallied Tuesday to demand action to rescue the schoolgirls.

EKPEIPIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images

Members of the Chibok community in Abuja, Nigeria, rallied Tuesday to demand action to rescue the schoolgirls.

ABUJA, Nigeria — Armed extremists in northern Nigeria have carried out another brazen kidnapping of young girls, the UN Children’s Fund and a local official said Tuesday, adding to the international uproar over the abduction of more than 200 girls seized from a school in the same part of the country last month.

Details of the additional kidnapping came as the Obama administration announced that it had offered to help Nigeria’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, find and prosecute those responsible for the April mass abduction, which has traumatized Nigeria and garnered attention worldwide.

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Jay Carney, a White House spokesman, told reporters in Washington that the assistance, including US military personnel and specialists in hostage negotiations, was offered to Jonathan in a telephone call with Secretary of State John Kerry. In addition, the State Department issued an updated warning to US citizens, admonishing them to avoid nonessential travel to parts of northern Nigeria “due to the risk of kidnappings, robberies and other armed attacks.”

President Obama said the Nigerian government has accepted technical assistance from US military and law enforcement officials.

‘‘We’re going to do everything we can to provide assistance to them,’’ the president said in an interview on the Today show.

Obama said the April 15 abduction, which has ignited international outrage and mounting demands for Nigeria to do more to find and free the girls before they are harmed, is a ‘‘terrible situation.’’

‘‘Boko Haram, this terrorist organization that’s been operating in Nigeria, has been killing people and innocent civilians for a very long time,’’ Obama said, adding that the group long has been identified as one of the worst local or regional terrorist organizations in the world. ‘‘I can only imagine what the parents are going through,’’ added Obama, a father of two daughters ages 15 and 12.

The technical specialists, including a team to be put together by the US Embassy in Abuja, will include US military and law enforcement personnel skilled in intelligence, investigations, hostage negotiating, information sharing, and victim assistance, Carney said.

The United States was not considering sending armed forces, Carney noted.

Kerry said the United States has been in touch with Nigeria ‘‘from day one’’ of the crisis. But repeated offers of assistance were ignored until Kerry and Jonathan spoke Tuesday amid growing international concern over the fate of the girls in the weeks since their abduction from their school in the country’s remote northeast.

Kerry said Nigeria apparently had its own strategy for how to proceed, but realizes that more needs to be done.

UNICEF said the second kidnapping involved at least eight girls who were seized in their homes in Borno state to prevent them from attending school. It called the latest abduction “an outrage and a worsening nightmare for the girls themselves, and for the families of the more than 200 girls who have been stolen from their communities in the last several weeks.”

Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF’s regional director for west and central Africa, said that the information was obtained from the agency’s contacts for the area, which has been riven for years by attacks on villages and schools by Boko Haram. The leader of the group, Abubakar Shekau, has claimed responsibility for the mass abduction last month in a newly released video in which he vowed to sell the girls like slaves.

“The situation in northeast Nigeria has been difficult for a long time,” Fontaine said. The mass anger and global outcry caused by the abductions is important, he said, because it shows that “at some point people say enough is enough.”

Hamba Tada, a local official in Gwoza, another town in the area, offered additional details of the latest kidnapping, although his account differed in some respects.

Tada said 11 girls, 12 to 15 years old, had been abducted from two villages, Warabe and Wala, on Sunday night by members of Boko Haram.

He said the kidnappers had not shot anyone but seized grain and livestock while the abducted girls were hurled into a bus.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.
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