Canadians on the ground in Nigeria to help search for kidnapped girls: Baird
Published Monday, May 12, 2014 4:29PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, May 12, 2014 10:31PM EDT
Canadian help has arrived on the ground in Nigeria to join the search for nearly 300 kidnapped schoolgirls, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird confirmed Monday.
“I am pleased to say that as we committed to last week, there are Canadians who have arrived on the ground in Nigeria who are working with the United States and the United Kingdom to work on the freedom of these young girls, which is obviously our most pressing priority,” Baird told reporters in Ottawa.
But the government remains tight-lipped about who exactly those Canadians are.
CTV’s Mercedes Stephenson reported Monday that they have “something to do with security.”
“Who they are and what they’re doing is being kept under very tight wraps out of fear that their safety could be compromised if we talk too much about what they’re doing or if we expose any kind of identities that could put them at risk to be targeted,” she said.
CTV News has learned, however, that Canadian Special Forces operators – the most elite and highly trained soldiers -- will be deploying to Nigeria in the coming days as part of Ottawa’s larger commitment to help the Nigerian government. Those special forces are not negotiators, but they have expertise in hostage extraction, Stephenson told CTV News.
Canada granted the Nigerian government’s request for surveillance equipment in the search for the abducted girls, but only under the condition that Canadians operate the devices.
Sources in the foreign affairs department told Stephenson they were nervous about simply handing over powerful surveillance equipment to the Nigerian government. They wanted to make sure that the equipment was being used only to find the girls.
A new video obtained by the AFP news agency Monday purportedly shows some of the missing schoolgirls in an undisclosed rural location, wearing full-length Muslim veils.
In the video, the leader of Boko Haram, the extremist group responsible for the mass kidnapping, says he will not release the girls until the government frees his jailed fighters.
"I swear to almighty Allah you will not see them again until you release our people that you have captured," Abubakar Shekau says.
He also claims that the girls shown in the video have converted to Islam.