Nigeria offered Canadian gear to help search for kidnapped girls

Canada has offered to provide surveillance equipment to Nigeria to help with the country's search for hundreds of schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Wednesday.

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Canada has offered to provide surveillance equipment to Nigeria to help with the country's search for hundreds of schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Wednesday.

Canada would also provide the technical expertise to operate the equipment.

Reports said Nigeria was asking Canada to supply surveillance equipment to battle terrorism in the wake of the abductions.

The country's vice-president reportedly issued a statement today after meeting with Canadian Development Minister Christian Paradis in the Nigerian capital of Abuja.

But Baird said Canada's offer is conditional: there won't be any equipment sent without people going along to operate it.

"We obviously would have concerns with Nigeria, with their human rights record, and many issues, of just simply providing millions of dollars of military equipment as some sort of permanent gift," he said.

"It would have to be used obviously for the search of these young girls, for the rescue of these young girls.

"There was a suggestion, I think, that we could just send equipment with our best wishes, but obviously we would want the equipment used specifically for this purpose." 

Nigerian officials haven't responded to the offer, Baird said.

Crime against the 'innocent'

Nigerian media reports say Vice-President Namadi Sambo expressed his government's deep concern over the insurgency by the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram.

The militants abducted hundreds of girls, aged 12 to 15, in Nigeria three weeks ago, sparking worldwide attention.

The United States, Britain and France are sending experts to Nigeria to help with the search for the girls.

Baird has previously said Canada joins in the international condemnation of mass kidnapping in Nigeria. He has branded the kidnappers' actions as "despicable" and said they will only strengthen the desire "to fight international terrorism."

In question period, Prime Minister Stephen Harper called the kidnapping "truly a crime against innocent individuals" and said Canada is very concerned by the growth of an extreme terrorist organization. 

"Obviously there have been discussions between our government authorities in Nigeria and we're willing to provide a range of assistance, and that offer, of course, remains open," Harper told MPs.

The United States said today it is sending fewer than 10 military troops to Nigeria as part of the U.S. effort to help find nearly 300 girls kidnapped by the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram.

A Pentagon spokesman said officials have no plans now to launch any military operations.

Help with logistics

Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren told The Associated Press the troops will be arriving in a few days 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. is 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.

On Wednesday, U.S. President Barack Obama said the immediate priority is finding the girls, but that Boko Haram must also be dealt with.

"In the short term our goal is obviously is to help the international community, and the Nigerian government, as a team to do everything we can to recover these young ladies," Obama said in an interview with NBC's Today, in some of his first public comments on what he said was a "terrible situation" in the West African nation.

With files from the Canadian Press