U.S. to Send Aid for Safe Return of Kidnapped Nigerian Schoolgirls

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Sarah Joanne Jakubowski, Contributing JournalistLast Modified: 23:17 p.m. DST, 07 May 2014

Union Square, New York, Protesters Against Boko Haram Kidnappers, Photo by Michael FleshmanThree weeks ago, the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram kidnapped nearly 300 girls from the Chibok Government Girls Secondary School in Borno State as they were about to sit for their final exams.

Boko Haram, which translates to "Western education is sinful," then set the school on fire. Since then, 53 girls have managed to escape -- though Tuesday, 6 May 2014, there was another kidnapping of 8-girls from the nearby village of Warabe.

Thus far the search for the missing girls has primarily been conducted by residents of Borno, who have been braving the dangerous Sambisa Forest as well as potentially fatal encounters with Boko Haram, all with little on-ground military support.

The military says it is using aerial surveillance to look for the girls. However, many suspect that the government is afraid to engage in a conflict with Boko Haram which is heavily armed.

After three weeks of little or no support from the Nigerian government, as well as the lack of information on the exact location and status of the kidnapped girls, citizens have begun to lose confidence in authority.

However, the girls have international support: the British government expressed concern, the UN condemned the kidnappings as acts against humanity, protests are happening worldwide, awareness has gone viral with the hashtag "#bringbackourgirls," and Nigeria has recently accepted help from the US military.

While the girls were originally kept nearby, there is belief that some have been transported to neighboring countries.  If the girls have been split up into several groups, rescue efforts could potentially take years.

Boko Haram plans to sell the girls. Additionally, some may be kept as human shields to prevent rescuers from bombing the camps they're kept at, and others may be ransomed back to their parents.

U.S. President Barack Obama has said that finding the girls will be a top priority.

Follow Sarah on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributing Journalist: @SJJakubowski