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TransAfrica praises U.S. aid in search for missing Nigerian girls

Wednesday - 5/7/2014, 4:09pm  ET

Boko Haram trying to break hearts, minds of Nigerians

Nicole Lee, outgoing president of TransAfrica

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WASHINGTON - The outgoing president of TransAfrica says that it took too long for the Nigerian government to accept help from the U.S. to rescue 276 girls who were kidnapped by a militant group more than two weeks ago.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said Tuesday that he accepted the U.S. offer to help in the search.

"The whole thing is very scary and frankly disgusting," human rights lawyer Nicole Lees tells WTOP. "I'm just so sad that it took so long."

Lee says that investigative and forensic expertise the U.S. can provide will be helpful and more effective than military support.

"Minutes count. Hours count. Certainly days count," Lee says. "Two-and-half weeks away, we're not sure if the Boko Haram leader, or the so-called leader, has made good on his claims that he's selling the girls for as little as $12 to be 'brides'."

Lee calls the kidnapping of 300 girls from their school the most brazen of the Boko Haram's attacks. The group was also responsible for kidnapping 11 girls near the border with Cameroon and for a bombing two weeks ago that killed more than 70 people.

"Boko Haram is a threat. The country is under seige. It's a major security issue. And civilians, frankly, feel targeted actually both by Boko Haram and sometimes by the Nigerian government," she says.

The Nigerian government is under pressure to appear effective in the face of increasing violence from the extremist group and is facing a suspicious public that worries the Boko Haram has infiltrated the government.

Some of the kidnapped girls who escaped the militants said they left their school because they were told they were going with the Nigerian military, Lee says.

International pressure was crucial to convincing Nigeria to accept U.S. assistance.

"And it's going to take international pressure to make sure that these girls come home safely," Lee says.

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