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Nigeria's president pledges to free schoolgirls, end "terrorism"

Source: Reuters - Thu, 8 May 2014 11:24 GMT
Author: Reuters
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Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan arrives for the extraordinary session of the African Union's Assembly of Heads of State and Government on the case of African Relationship with the International Criminal Court (ICC), in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, October 12, 2013 REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri
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* Nigeria hosting World Economic Forum for Africa

* Jonathan thanks delegates for coming despite militant threat

* 200 school girls abducted by Islamists still missing (Adds details, background)

By Matthew Mpoke Bigg

ABUJA, May 8 (Reuters) - Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan pledged on Thursday to find more than 200 schoolgirls abducted by Islamist rebels, saying their rescue would mark "the beginning of the end of terrorism" in the country.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum (WEF) being hosted in the capital Abuja, Jonathan thanked foreign nations including the United States, Britain, France and China for their support in trying to rescue the girls, who were kidnapped from a secondary school on April 14.

He thanked delegates for coming despite the danger posed by militants, then quickly moved on to a speech about creating jobs in African economies.

"As a nation we are facing attack from terrorism," Jonathan told delegates. "I believe that the kidnap of these girls will be the beginning of the end of terrorism in Nigeria."

France became the latest nation to offer help on Wednesday, saying it was boosting intelligence ties with Nigeria and sending security service agents there to tackle Boko Haram, the militant group which claimed the mass kidnapping.

With more than 4,000 troops operating between Mali to the west and Central African Republic to the east, Paris has a major interest in preventing Nigeria's security from deteriorating and has warned that Boko Haram could spread north into the Sahel.

In the latest big Islamist attack in Nigeria, 125 people were killed on Monday when gunmen rampaged through a town in the northeast near the Cameroon border.

The scale and ferocity of the massacre in Gamburu underscored how far Nigerian security forces are from protecting civilians in an increasingly violent region.

On Tuesday, residents of the remote northeastern area were the schoolgirls were kidnapped said another eight girls were seized by suspected members of Boko Haram.

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau has threatened in a video to sell the girls abducted on April 14 from a secondary school in Chibok "on the market". (Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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