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Since 2009, when it began a campaign to overthrow the government of Nigeria and replace it with a regime based allegedly on a strict interpretation of Islamic law, the criminal terrorist group commonly known as Boko Haram has wreaked death and destruction across much of that nation’s northern half.

The group’s insurgency has claimed the lives of more than 4,000 people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee their homes. At first targeting police and other government officials and facilities, Boko Haram has broadened its attacks to churches, mosques, schools, media outlets, markets, and other civilian sites, leaving a trail of blood wherever it strikes.

On April 14 the group varied its tactics yet again, attacking a school for girls in the northern state of Borno and abducting more than 250 students, some as young as 15-years old. The group’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, released a video brazenly claiming credit for the raid and threatening to sell the girls, saying they should not have been in school, but rather should get married.

Even then the attacks on civilians continued, with hundreds feared dead in a community on Nigeria’s border with Cameroon where Boko Haram fighters stormed the town, setting fire to shops and houses and shooting residents as they tried to escape.

Long a close friend of the Nigerian people, the United States has been aiding the government in its fight with the militants, providing law enforcement training, communications equipment and intelligence assistance. Boko Haram leaders have been sanctioned and a reward of up to $7 million for information leading to Shekau’s location. With the kidnapping of the Chibok students, more assistance still will be provided.

U.S. officials are assembling a team of military and law enforcement specialists and investigators to help in the search for the abducted girls. The group has arrived in Nigeria to provide officials there with expertise in a number of key areas to aid with the search.

Boko Haram’s actions are a blow not only to the families of the missing girls and their countryman, but to the civilized world as a whole. President Obama has directed that the U.S. do everything it can to help find and free the young women.

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