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Brown's plea over kidnapped girls

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown has welcomed efforts to locate almost 300 abducted Nigerian schoolgirls in neighbouring African countries including Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

Mr Brown held talks with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan in his role as United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education, and assured him of the support being offered by world community in the hunt for the missing girls.

His comments came a day after Downing Street announced that Britain is to send a small team of experts to Nigeria to offer assistance with planning, co-ordination and advice to local authorities.

David Cameron described the mass kidnap as an act of "pure evil".

Islamist militants from the Boko Haram group have claimed responsibility for the kidnapping in northern Nigeria last month, and a leader warned that he would sell the 276 girls into slavery, raising concerns that they may be moved across the border into neighbouring country to be forced into work or marriage.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Nigerian capital Abuja, Mr Brown said: "I'm grateful that France and China have joined the United States and United Kingdom in offering support to the Nigerian people

"I have met President Goodluck Jonathan and Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala today and I have assured them of the support the world community will give to them as they try to locate the girls and make schools safe against terrorism."

He added: "I am grateful to teacher organisations in the region who said teachers in Cameroon, Chad and Niger are trying to help locate the girls who may have been dispersed out of Nigeria into these countries.

"We now know that in a separate incident in the past few weeks seven teachers were murdered and 27 members of their families were abducted as a result of kidnappings in the Borno State.

"This brings to 171 the numbers of teachers who have been assassinated since 2009 in Nigeria and it makes it all the more important that the Safe Schools Initiative announced yesterday, to increase the security available to pupils and teachers in their school grounds, moves forward as quickly as possible."

The kidnapping has ignited a viral social media campaign under the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls that has brought renewed attention to Boko Haram's campaign of violence. Yesterday, US first lady Michelle Obama joined in, tweeting, "Our prayers are with the missing Nigerian girls and their families. It's time to #BringBackOurGirls."

Boko Haram's five-year-old Islamic uprising has claimed the lives of thousands of Muslims and Christians, including more than 1,500 people killed in attacks so far this year.

The group, whose name means "Western education is sinful", has tried to root out Western influence by targeting schools, as well as attacking churches, mosques, government buildings and security forces in the country of 170 million, divided between a predominantly Christian south and Muslim north.


From Belfast Telegraph