Islamic extremists on Friday blew up a bridge, killed an unknown number of people and abducted the wife and two children of a retired police officer in northeast Nigeria, residents said on Saturday, amid mounting condemnation by Muslims worldwide of the Nigerian terrorist network that abducted more than 300 schoolgirls nearly a month ago.
News of Friday night’s attack came as international efforts to help rescue the 276 girls still missing got underway.
A team of French experts arrived on Saturday in Nigeria, according to an official in French President Francois Hollande’s office in Paris.
The official said the experts specialize in collecting intelligence from technical and human sources, as well as in image analysis.
The French team follow the arrival of a group of British security experts on Friday to join the Nigerian and US forces looking for the girls. Britain said its aim is not only to help find the abducted, but defeat Nigeria’s homegrown Boko Haram terrorist network.
US first lady Michelle Obama on Saturday added to the international outrage at the prolonged failure of Nigeria’s military to rescue the girls, saying in a radio address on the eve of Mothers’ Day that she and US President Barack Obama are “outraged and heartbroken” over the April 15 mass abduction.
“In these girls, Barack and I see our own daughters,” Michelle Obama said, referring to her children, Malia, 15, and Sasha, 12. “We see their hopes, their dreams and we can only imagine the anguish their parents are feeling right now.”
One of the parents of the students taken from Chibok Government Girls Secondary School in the northeastern town of Chibok, Reverend Enoch Mark, described his despair and anger at the Nigerian military for not finding his two daughters.
“For a good 11 days, our daughters were sitting in one place,” he said. “They camped them near Chibok [the town from which they were abducted], not more than 30km [away], and no help in hand.”
As the international assistance arrived, a well-known Nigerian Islamic academic warned that having foreign soldiers on Nigerian soil could escalate the conflict and draw foreign extremists to the country.
Speaking in Kaduna, Nigeria, on Friday, Ahmad Abubakar Mahmud Gumi said foreign troop’s presence “may trigger waves of terrorism never seen before,” adding that “foreign terrorists are eager to engage foreign forces, making Nigeria just another battle ground,” like Afghanistan and Iraq.
Former Nigerian president General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida urged the country’s Muslims to rise up against the extremists sullying the name of Islam.
“Islam enjoins you to live peacefully with fellow human beings... Therefore, anybody who will come and smear our name, all Muslims should kick against that. Muslims should also do everything possible to stop this continued blackmail against the religion of Islam,” he said in an interview with the BBC Hausa Service on Saturday.
From Doha, Qatar, the International Union for Muslim Scholars condemned “the terrible crimes offensive to Islam” and said that Boko Haram’s actions “are very far from Islamic teachings.”
It called on the militants to immediately release the girls, saying that threats to sell them into slavery are against Shariah law.
Boko Haram has said it wants to enforce Shariah across the entire country. Nigeria’s population of 170 million is divided almost equally between Christians and Muslims, with Shariah pursued to varying degrees in most of the northern states.