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U.S. to advise Nigeria on kidnapped girls, no rescue plans -Pentagon

Source: Reuters - Thu, 8 May 2014 01:41 GMT
Author: Reuters
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People take part in a protest demanding the release of abducted secondary school girls from the remote village of Chibok, in Lagos May 5, 2014 REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye
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By Phil Stewart

WASHINGTON, May 7 (Reuters) - The U.S. military has no plans to carry out a rescue mission for more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped in Nigeria by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram, but is sending personnel to Nigeria to "advise and assess," a Pentagon spokesman said on Wednesday.

President Barack Obama's administration has announced plans to establish a "coordination cell" of experts in Nigeria to bolster efforts to find the girls, who Boko Haram has threatened to sell into slavery.

The degree of U.S. assistance is still being defined but the Pentagon said that the cell at the U.S. embassy in Abuja would include fewer than 10 military personnel.

"Their mission there is simply to assess and advise. These personnel will be experts in areas to include communications, logistics, intelligence," said the spokesman, Army Colonel Steve Warren.

"At this time, we are not considering a U.S. operation to help rescue the girls," Warren said.

The U.S. State Department said the team would provide "military, law enforcement and information sharing assistance."

France also said it was boosting intelligence ties with Nigeria and sending security service agents there to tackle Boko Haram. Around 10 experts from the external DGSE intelligence service with satellite surveillance knowledge would first be sent to join United States and British teams, official sources said.

Demanding an Islamic state, Boko Haram has been fighting in the northeast for five years but attracted renewed global attention last month with the abduction of girls taking exams in the village of Chibok in Borno state. Police said on Wednesday that at least 125 people were killed in the latest large-scale attack after gunmen rampaged through a town in the northeast.

Johnnie Carson, a former U.S. diplomat on Africa, said Nigeria had not always accepted U.S. recommendations in past years.

"This is a proud country with a professional military and intelligence service. And sometimes they accept some things and sometimes they don't," said Carson, now at the United States Institute of Peace, established and funded by Congress.

Asked to elaborate, Carson said in a conference call with reporters: "We made proposals and suggestions. They were not all fully taken up and they weren't all fully implemented as far as recommendations made." (Additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Grant McCool)

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