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Reward offered over kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls

Nigerian police offered a 300,000 U.S. dollar reward on Wednesday for information leading to the rescue of more than 200 schoolgirls abducted by Islamist rebels.

The mass kidnapping last month by militant group Boko Haram, which is fighting for an Islamic state in northeast Nigeria, triggered an international outcry and protests in Nigeria, piling pressure on the government to get the girls back.

Public anger mounted after locals on Tuesday said another eight girls had been seized from the same remote northeastern area by suspected members of the group.

Police listed six phone numbers in their statement and urged Nigerians to call in with “credible information”.

Political analyst, Jibrin Ibrahim says though the action by Nigeria’s police is coming three weeks late, it is still a welcome development.

“I’m a bit disturbed that it took them over three weeks to realize they needed to give incentives as well as punitive action immediately this thing happened to increase the chances of recovery however I think it’s good they have finally decided to offer the incentive and let’s hope somebody will take the bait and provide the information to bring back our girls,” he said.

Leaders from China to the U.S. have offered Nigeria assistance in tracking down and freeing the kidnapped schoolgirls.

The Canadian government confirmed on Wednesday it will supply surveillance equipment to help Nigeria find the girls.

“Canada will provide surveillance equipment and the technical expertise to operate it,” Jason MacDonald, a spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, said in an email.

In response to a question from the NDP during Wednesday’s question period, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said any loans of Canadian military hardware 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,” said Baird.

“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.”

Ibrahim said the extent of the Nigerian response showed that assistance was required.

“I think it’s very clear that we have a capacity problem in terms of rescuing these girls because we haven’t seen concrete action since they were picked up or abducted on the 14th of last month. I think if the fact of the matter is that we a don’t have sufficient capacity then it’s appropriate that they seek for help but in seeking for help abroad they need to be careful that they don’t bargain out our sovereignty as a nation,” Ibrahim said.

A man claiming to be Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, called for western education to end and said the girls should “go and get married” in a chilling, nearly hour-long speech released Monday.

In recent years, Boko Haram, which means “western education is sin” has carried out dozens of attacks, killing hundreds of people at schools, churches, police stations, government buildings and elsewhere.

With files from The Associated Press