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Obama: Kidnapping of nearly 300 girls may mobilize world against Islamic militant group

Protesters spoke out at the Nigerian embassy in Washington, D.C. to express their disappointment in the Nigerian government after an extremist group kidnapped nearly 300 girls on April 15th. (Jackie Kucinich/The Washington Post)

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.”

Demonstrators, including Tiffani Brown, C, of Greenbelt, MD, gather in front of DC's Nigerian Embassy on Tuesday, May 6, 2014, in Washington, DC. The demonstrators are pushing the Nigerian government to find and free 276 girls who were kidnapped on April 14 from their dormitories at the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, Nigeria. (Photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post)

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 girlsAccording 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.


Katie Zezima is a national political correspondent covering the 2016 presidential election. She previously served as a White House correspondent for The Post.



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Katie Zezima · May 6, 2014

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