BAUCHI, Nigeria — British security experts on Friday joined the Nigerian and U.S. search for at least 276 girls being held by Islamic militants in northeastern Nigeria as an international effort began taking hold.
The British team, which arrived in Lagos on Friday, is expected to work closely with U.S. officials and agents in the search for the missing girls, the British government said, as Boko Haram militants continued to stage attacks in northeastern Nigeria. China and France have also promised help, and the deputy prime minister of Spain, Soraya Saenz de Santamaria, told reporters in Madrid on Friday that her government had decided to make available a specialist police team to assist if Nigeria approves.
Britain said its aim was not only to help with the current crisis but to defeat Boko Haram.
“The team will be considering not just the recent incidents but also longer-term counter-terrorism solutions to prevent such attacks in the future and defeat Boko Haram,” the Foreign & Commonwealth Office said in a statement Friday.
A local government official confirmed that the Islamic extremists bombed a bridge linking the town of Gamboru to the Borno state capital, Maiduguri, the headquarters of the Nigerian military offensive. Boko Haram attacked Gamboru on Monday, leaving many dead. Estimates of the toll from that attack ranged from 100 to as many as 300. Local security officials said Friday that Boko Haram militants bombed the bridge as they retreated following the attack on Gamboru’s main market, where at least 50 bodies have since been discovered in the debris of burned shops.
Communications with the remote town are difficult, and it was not immediately possible to reconcile conflicting accounts of when the bridge was bombed. One account said Monday while another said Thursday.
Local traders in Gamboru said Friday that their businesses were suffering, with trailers and heavy trucks now stranded on either side of the damaged bridge.
The bombing of the bridge also prevents army convoys reaching Gamboru while leaving the way open for the insurgents to escape across a strategic bridge into neighboring Cameroon — a bridge leading into mountains where the militants are known to have hideouts in caves.
Boko Haram has staged many attacks in northeastern Nigeria over the years, a campaign of bombings and massacres that has intensified in recent times despite a strong military presence there. Since May 2013, there has been a state of emergency in three northeastern Nigerian states wracked by Boko Haram violence.