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US signals willingness to widen role in fighting Boko Haram in Nigeria

ABUJA, Nigeria — As Nigeria swore in a new president Friday, the Obama administration signaled that it was prepared to expand military cooperation in the fight against Boko Haram.

Secretary of State John Kerry, who led the US delegation to the inauguration, discussed the increased military assistance in a meeting with Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria’s new leader.

“Something we can do quickly is to send advisers,” said a senior State Department official, who could not be identified under department policy. “It could be related to intelligence; it could be something very simple, related to things like logistics.”

Kerry was among the dignitaries from more than 30 nations who attended the inauguration of Buhari, 72. The ceremony, which marked Nigeria’s first handover of power from one political party to another since the end of military rule in 1999, was held in Eagle Square.

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Wearing a light brown Muslim gown and holding a Koran, Buhari promised to uphold Nigeria’s Constitution.

“I belong to everybody, and I belong to nobody,” he said in his inaugural address, highlighting his anticorruption theme.

Buhari also promised to persevere until “Boko Haram is completely subdued.”

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation and its largest oil producer, faces several economic problems, which have been aggravated by corruption and poor security. Concern over Boko Haram, a radical Islamist sect that has been mounting deadly attacks against government and civilian targets for years, grew after its April 2014 abduction of nearly 300 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok.

That abduction led to a widely publicized “Bring Back Our Girls” campaign, which was aimed at raising international concern about the kidnapping and which Michelle Obama supported in a White House radio address.

Since then, Boko Haram has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, the terrorist group that has proclaimed a caliphate in much of Iraq and Syria.

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Despite concern about Boko Haram, US efforts to expand military cooperation with Nigeria diminished during the presidency of Goodluck Jonathan, who was defeated in the March election.

US officials expressed frustration with human rights abuses and corruption in Nigeria’s military, and Jonathan’s government complained that the United States was intervening in its internal affairs.