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200 Nigerian Stolen Schoolgirls May be Sold on ‘Human Market’: Should US Troops Intervene?

Three weeks ago, over 200 Nigerian girls woke up to terror staring at them face-to-face.

Boko Haram, a militant Islamist group dragged the teens from their beds at school and kidnapped them. Hundreds were loaded into trucks headed for the dense forests near Cameroon. Most have not been seen since.

Now, a video has been released by a man claiming to be Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau saying he plans to sell the young girls in the ‘human market.’

“There is a market for selling humans. Allah says I should sell. He commands me to sell. I will sell women. I sell women,” he said, according to CNN’s translation of the Hausa language tape.

The attack occurred at a time when the schools in the region were on high alert for fears of attack and many had been shuttered completely. The Chibok girls, though, were soon to graduate and had returned to their boarding school to take their physics exam.

The Chib0k kidnapping also marks a significant escalation from previous terrorist acts by Boko Haram, who until now, have mostly targeted boys in their efforts to end Western education. In February the group, massacred 29 boys -some burned alive in their school – but spared the girls, instead telling them to go home, find a husband and read the Koran.

This time, over 276 girls are thought to have been taken by the group, whose name means ‘Western education is sinful/forbidden’. While some have escaped, many remain in the captors’ hands, no doubt in extreme peril.

Little else is known about the fate or the location of the missing girls or their kidnappers.

Now pressure is mounting for US officials to intervene to try to help find the Nigerian schoolgirls.

Already, John Kerry has pledged US help. During a trip to Africa, Secretary of State John Kerry said the US “will do everything possible to support the Nigerian government to return these young women to their homes and to hold the perpetrators to justice.”

However, the details of the US’s  intended help have not been forthcoming and it is unclear how much help Nigeria even wants from the White House.

Sarah Sewall, the undersecretary of state for civilian security has said, though, that it is unlikely that help will mean American boots on the ground.

Another US official concurred, stressing help will likely include information-sharing, not personnel. “We are sharing intelligence that may be relevant to this situation,” the official told CNN. “You are going to see a focus on this in all three channels of government: diplomatic, intelligence and military.”

In the meantime, members of Congress are urging the White House to send in troops to end this humanitarian crisis. “Attacking and abducting young women simply for going to school is despicable and must never be tolerated,” Sen. Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat, said in a statement announcing the bipartisan Senate resolution she helped author . “The international community must make clear that all children deserve the chance to pursue an education without fear and that those responsible for these heinous crimes will be held accountable.”

Update: AFP is now reporting that as of Tuesday afternoon,  John Kerry has offered support to Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan to “include the deployment of US security personnel and assets to work with their Nigerian counterparts in the search and rescue operation.”

Photo Credit: Screenshot


About the author

Tamar is a New York based freelance writer and photographer whose work has appeared in over 15 publications. You can catch her work regularly on Issue Hawk, Latest, Jspace, and MediaGlobal.