Canada offers to help in search for kidnapped Nigerian girls
Andrea Janus, CTVNews.ca
Published Wednesday, May 7, 2014 11:19AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, May 7, 2014 4:14PM EDT
Canada will provide Nigeria with surveillance equipment to help locate more than 270 schoolgirls kidnapped by Islamic insurgents who have been terrorized the African country for more than five years.
Jason MacDonald, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, said in an email that Canada will also provide “the technical expertise” to operate the equipment.
The government responded Wednesday to a report that Nigeria was asking Canada’s help in the hunt for the missing girls.
During question period, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said any equipment that goes to Nigeria would be accompanied by Canadian military personnel to operate it.
"We've offered support to the Nigerian government. If Canada has surveillance equipment that is not in the region that could provide assistance to find these young girls, we'd obviously be pleased to provide it," he said Wednesday.
"What we do have a concern is we will not hand over military equipment unless we can send the Canadians who can properly operate it."
Outside the House of Commons, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair told reporters: “Whatever Canada can do in the way of personnel and equipment, we should do.”
Nigerian Vice-President Namadi Sambo said the government “was anxious to put an end to the menace” of a five-year Islamic insurgency led by terror group Boko Haram that has killed more than 1,500 people so far this year alone. Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, and its leader has threatened to sell the girls into slavery.
According to a Nigerian media report, Sambo said that "'as we approach elections, we should not play politics with serious matters of state such as security,' and pleaded for support and assistance from Canada in areas of surveillance equipment and other vital security hardware" to help Nigeria address the insurgency.
Sambo made his comments when Canadian International Development Minister Christian Paradis was in his office in the capital of Abuja, according to the report.
In addition to issues regarding security, the two discussed maternal and child health, resource development, and the upcoming general election in Nigeria in 2015, the report said.
NDP MP Paul Dewar requested an emergency debate on the issue on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, the U.S. government announced that it will send military personnel and law enforcement officials to assist with the investigation into the kidnapped 276 schoolgirls, who have been missing for three weeks.
Mike Baker, a former covert operations officer with the CIA, said the fact that the Nigerian government is finally willing to accept outside help in dealing with the insurgency is a step in the right direction.
But a team of U.S. investigators and hostage negotiators is not going to “solve the problem,” Baker told CTV News Channel on Wednesday.
“There has to be a stepped-up effort to actually resolve this and try to minimize the impact of this organization,” Baker said from Boise, Idaho. “Right now they are just running amok, particularly in the northeast areas.”
Last December, Canada listed Boko Haram as a terrorist organization. Under the Criminal Code, it is illegal to be a member of, or transfer money to, the group.
With files from The Canadian Press