President Barack Obama: 'We're going to do everything we can' to help Nigeria in search for kidnapped girls

By Updated at 2014-05-07 04:41:23 +0000

American military and law-enforcement personnel will coordinate with Nigerian officials in a stepped-up effort to find nearly 300 schoolgirls who were abducted by Islamic terrorists in the country last month, President Obama and John Kerry said Tuesday.

The United States first publicly announced an offer for help last week, but on Tuesday Kerry spoke with Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan and a plan was put in action.

“So what we've done is — we have offered, and it's been accepted — help from our military and our law enforcement officials,” Obama told NBC News’ Al Roker on Tuesday. "We're going to do everything we can to provide assistance to them."

“In the short term our goal is obviously to help the international community, and the Nigerian government, as a team to do everything we can to recover these young ladies,” Obama continued. “But we're also going to have to deal with the broader problem of organizations like this, that, uh, you know, can cause such havoc in people's day-to-day lives.”

Kerry on Tuesday spoke to the president of Nigeria and offered direct, concrete help in finding the girls kidnapped from their classrooms by Boko Haram, a terror group whose name means “Western education is a sin.”

Kerry said that a joint intelligence cell would be set up at the U.S. embassy in Nigeria and would begin work "immediately."

"Our embassy in Abuja is prepared to form a coordination cell that could provide expertise on intelligence, investigations and hostage negotiations and to help facilitate information-sharing and victim assistance."

"(Nigerian) President Goodluck Jonathan was very happy to receive this offer and ready to move on it immediately," said Kerry at the press conference in Washington, D.C., with E.U. foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. "And we are immediately engaging in order to implement this."

He added, "we remained deeply concerned about the welfare of these young girls."

READ MORE: Nigerian Schoolgirl Describes Kidnapping by Terrorists

When asked later by NBC News why it has taken so long to mobilize the joint effort to find the abducted girls, Kerry bristled, saying "First of all we have been in touch from Day One and our embassy has been engaged and we have been engaged, but the (Nigerian) government had its own set of strategies in the beginning."