President Obama said Tuesday that the abduction of nearly 300 girls from a school in Nigeria is "heartbreaking," and he believes the incident may mobilize the world to act against the Islamic militant group that has taken credit for the mass kidnapping.
Speaking with ABC News, Obama said the organization, Boko Haram, has been "killing people ruthlessly for years" and is among the world's worst local terrorist organizations.
"This may be the event that helps to mobilize the entire international community to finally do something against this horrendous organization that’s perpetrated such a terrible crime.”
Obama said the U.S. has sent a team of military, law enforcement and other agencies' personnel to help the Nigerian government identify where the girls may be. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan spoke with Secretary of State John Kerry Tuesday morning, the White House said, underscoring that the offer of aid does not include troops. Obama said that the United States has long wanted to work with Nigeria on eradicating Boko Haram.
"We’ve long sought to work with Nigeria in dealing with them and we’re going to do everything we can to assist them in recovering these young women," Obama told CBS News.
Nearly 300 girls were abducted from a rural school in the country's northeast by Boko Haram, an Islamic militant group that does not believe girls should be sent to school. Its name means "Western Education is Sinful." The group admitted responsibility this week and has threatened to sell the girls. According to reports, eight more girls between the ages of 12 and 15 were abducted this week.
"Obviously what’s happening is awful," Obama told CBS news. "As the father of two girls, I can’t imagine what the parents are going through."
Obama said the abductions draw attention to the danger of such groups and the chaos they create each day.
"In the short term, our goal is obviously is to help the international community, and the Nigerian government, as a team to do everything we can to recover these young ladies," Obama told NBC News. "But we're also going to have to deal with the broader problem of organizations like this, that, uh, you know, can cause such havoc in people's day to day lives."
The abductions have sparked protests and outrage around the world. A group called Bring Back our Girls protested Tuesday outside the Nigerian embassy in the District, where dozens demanded that Nigerian authorities take action to find the girls.