White House calls Nigeria abductions an ‘outrage’

The White House says President Barack Obama’s national security team is monitoring the situation in Nigeria, calling the abduction of 200 Nigerian schoolgirls an “outrage and a terrible tragedy.”

Press Secretary Jay Carney said President Barack Obama has been briefed on the situation several times and the State Department has been in touch with the Nigerian government about what the U.S. might do to help support efforts to find and free the women.

“We continue to stand firmly with the people of Nigeria in their efforts to bring the terrorist violence perpetrated by Boko Haram to an end, while ensuring civilian protection and respect for human rights,” Carney said.

He had few details on what assistance the U.S. is providing, saying that U.S. counterterrorism assistance to Nigeria focuses on information-sharing and on improving Nigeria's forensics and investigative capacity. He said the U.S. is also working with the Nigerian government to strengthen its criminal justice system and increase confidence in the government.

“This is an outrage and a tragedy, and we are doing what we can to assist the Nigerian government to support its efforts to find and free the young women who were abducted,” he said.

Carney sidestepped a question about whether the White House believes the Nigerian government is going everything it could do free the girls.

“What I can say is what we're doing to assist them and how outrageous this abduction is,” Carney said. “There is no question that Boku Haram is a terrorist organization with heinous and malicious intent, and we are gonna do everything we can to assist Nigeria in their efforts to find and free those young women, those girls.”

The U.S. last year designated Boko Haram as a foreign terrorist organization, which effectively cuts the organization off from U.S. financial institutions and enables banks to freeze assets here in the United States.

U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, co-chairs of a Senate human trafficking caucus, said the group’s announcement that it would sell the girls into slavery shows “criminal disregard for the most fundamental of human rights.

“Sadly, while this event is tragically large in scope, it is neither new to Nigeria nor isolated to that corner of the globe,” they said in a statement. “Human trafficking is a horrific reality faced by more than a million children around the world annually, and we will continue the fight to combat it both at home and abroad.”