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Letter to Barack Obama, President of the United States- Provide Assistance to Government of Nigeria to Develop Specialized Units to Rescue Kidnapped Schoolgirls and Bring Boko Haram Leader to Justice

Dear Mr. President:

We are writing to commend your decision to deploy American security experts and equipment in Nigeria to help locate and rescue the more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by the terrorist group, Boko Haram. We support your action and we strongly urge you to work in concert with the Government of Nigeria and the African Union to achieve this objective and to bring Abubakar Shekau and other leaders of Boko Haram to justice.

Boko Haram, a militant group designated by the State Department in November 2013 as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, has been conducting a reign of terror against innocent Nigerian women, children, and men since 2009, when it killed hundreds of persons during a raid of a police station in Maiduguri. In the last four years, Boko Haram has carried out more than 480 violent attacks against a broad array of targets: Christian and Muslim communities, government installations, schools, hospitals and medical facilities, aid workers, and journalists. Since the beginning of 2013, more than 4,400 innocent persons have been killed and thousands more left homeless.

According to media reports, the leader of Boko Haram has threatened to ransom or sell the girls into the human trafficking market for about twelve dollars each ($12.00 USD). This outrageous conduct cannot be tolerated or overlooked. Not only is it a violation of the girls' human rights, it is also contrary to United States policy supporting and promoting equal access to educational and economic opportunity for women and girls.

We know that terrorist groups cannot operate effectively without reliable and steady funding to support their criminal acts. Therefore, we urge you to work with the international community to detect, disrupt, and dismantle the funding networks financing Boko Haram, which published reports indicate has received as much as $70 million from other Islamist groups, including Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsular (AQAP), the Al Muntada Trust Fund, and the Islamic World Society.

Additionally, we urge you to consider working with the Government of Nigeria to develop its own capacity to deploy specialized police and army units rapidly to rescue the schoolgirls and bring Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau to justice. Such units also can be deployed to prevent and combat sectarian violence in cities and around the country where there has been a history of sectarian violence. The creation of an elite highly-trained rapid response unit would appear to be a sound short-term strategy that the Government of Nigeria should employ in dealing with violent groups like Boko Haram. This approach was used to successful effect by the Indonesia Government in 2004 to neutralize the Laskar Jihad terrorist organization.

Finally, we call upon you to take appropriate action to help the Government of Nigeria establish a Victim's Fund to provide humanitarian relief and economic assistance to the victims of attacks by Boko Haram so that they can rebuild their lives and communities.

"People are the great issue of the 20th century," declared, then-Senator Hubert Humphrey in 1948. The well-being of people remains the great issue of the 21st century. And there is no better measure of any society than the way its treats its women and girls. Boko Haram understands that when Nigerian girls are educated, Nigerian women can succeed; and when Nigerian women succeed, Nigeria succeeds. And that is why it is so important that the United States help Nigeria ensure that Boko Haram fails.

Thank you for your leadership and your consideration of our recommendations. We stand ready to work with you to bring about the safe rescue of the kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls and to reunite them with their families and loved ones.


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