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Locals With Ties To Nigeria Hope For Safe Return Of Kidnapped Girls

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Area residents with ties to Nigeria are watching, worrying and praying for the safe return of hundreds of schoolgirls who have been kidnapped there.

As CBS 2’s Kathryn Brown reported, the lunchtime talk at an African restaurant in Canarsie, Brooklyn, centered around the horrors unfolding in Nigeria, where nearly 300 schoolgirls were abducted.

The local insurgent group Boko Haram has claimed responsibility and released a video detailing plans to sell the girls as sex slaves and servants.

Back in the Tri-State area — an ocean and six time zones away — are watching the situation closely.

“They’re innocent girls,” Shola Fashina, whose sister attends a boarding school in Nigeria, told CBS 2’s Kathryn Brown. “They don’t deserve it.

“I can imagine what the families are going through, and I’m really, really praying that the release of the girls happens very soon.”

The United States is now stepping in, sending a team of hostage negotiators to help the Nigerian government.

Former Deputy CIA Director Mike Morell, a CBS News senior security contributor, described Boko Haram as regional terrorists with close ties to al Qaeda.

“They are both an insurgency in northern Nigeria, meaning they are fighting the Nigerian military for territory, and they are a terrorist group,” Morell said. “And what they want is they want a conservative, Islamic government in northern Nigeria.”

“They are strangers in our country, Nigeria,” Nigerian native Comfort Ojije told Brown.

Social media is shrinking the distance between New York City and the events in Nigeria. The hashtag #bringbackourgirls has been repeated more than a million times on Twitter and has become a rallying cry for the movement worldwide.

“It could be anybody’s child,” Christian Njoked, a Nigerian native, said. “It’s just unbelievable.”

The reward for information leading to the missing girls stands at $300,000.

U.S. Response In Works

A handful of U.S. troops will arrive in Nigeria in the next few days, but the U.S. has no plans to launch any military operations, the Pentagon said Wednesday.

Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren said fewer than 10 troops are being sent as part of the larger U.S. assistance team to include State Department and Justice Department personnel. The military members will help with communications, logistics and intelligence-planning.

Warren said the U.S. was talking with Nigeria about information and intelligence-sharing, but nothing has been decided.

There are already about 70 military personnel in Nigeria, including 50 regularly assigned to the embassy, and 20 Marines have been there for training.

At the State Department, spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the department was moving swiftly to put a team in place at the U.S. Embassy in Abuja that can provide military, law enforcement and information-sharing assistance in support of Nigeria’s efforts to find and free the girls. She said the U.S. ambassador to Nigeria met Wednesday morning with Nigeria’s national security adviser.

“Our legal attache has been in touch with Nigerian police,” she said. “The FBI stands ready to send additional personnel, to provide technical and investigatory assistance, including expertise on hostage negotiations and USAID is working with partners on what we can do to be ready to provide victims’ assistance.”

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