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June 26, 2017

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US, British teams arrive in Nigeria to help find kidnapped schoolgirls

ABUJA, Nigeria -- U.S. and British experts have arrived in Nigeria to help in the hunt for more than 200 schoolgirls whose abduction last month by Islamists prompted universal outrage.

The U.S. embassy in Abuja told AFP Friday that a team of American experts had arrived in Nigeria, without specifying the make up of the group.

U.S. officials have previously said Washington would send military personnel as well as specialists from the Justice Department and the FBI to help search for the girls kidnapped by the Boko Haram group on April 14 in the northeastern town of Chibok.

British specialists, including defense ministry personnel, also landed in Nigeria's capital on Friday, the foreign office said.

France and China have also offered satellite imaging equipment to help find the girls whose kidnapping has drawn condemnation worldwide and raised awareness about an Islamist uprising that has killed thousands since 2009.

Nigeria had initially been slow to respond to the kidnappings and the military's search and rescue effort has been fiercely criticized by activists and parents of the hostages.

But a series of protests in the capital, a growing social media campaign, and attention from world leaders and celebrities has put pressure on Nigeria to act more aggressively.

Nigeria has in the past resisted security cooperation with the West, experts said, but amid outrage over the plight of the hostages, President Goodluck Jonathan's administration this week welcomed offers of help from world powers.

Unprecedented Brutality

The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) on Friday said that aside from the kidnappings which have captured global attention, focus needed to remain on Boko Haram's wider insurgency.

"The brutality and frequency of (the group's) attacks is unprecedented," UNHCR said in a statement.

Most of the group's recent violence has been concentrated in the remote northeast, where Boko Haram was founded more than a decade ago, and where more than 1,600 people have already been killed this year.

Attacks in Borno state have at times seemed a weekly occurrence this year, with defenseless civilians the most frequent victims.

"Some have witnessed friends or family members being randomly singled out and killed in the streets," UNHCR said.

"People speak of homes and fields being burned to the ground, with villages completely razed, or grenades being launched into crowded markets killing people and livestock," the statement added.

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