Prime Minister David Cameron has indicated that British troops could be used to help rescue the kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls.
When asked on BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show yesterday, he said: “We stand ready to do anything more that the Nigerians would want.
“We can’t just pile in and do whatever we would like. It is immensely complicated because they are probably in this deep area of jungle that is three times the size of Wales, but it is good that efforts are being stepped up and we will do what we can.”
Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan and his government has been hit by stinging criticism for being too slow to react after the 276 girls were snatched from their school in Chibok, in the state of Borno in the country’s north-east. The girls were taken by Islamic extremist group Boko Haram on 14 April.
Asked whether British troops might be used to help rescue the girls if Nigeria asked, Mr Cameron told the programme: “I think they are unlikely to ask for British troops but we have worked with the Nigerians in the past, in hostage rescue situations where British special forces have helped and advised and the rest of it, and so I said to president Jonathan, where we can help please ask and we’ll see what we can do.
“He accepted the idea of a team [of UK experts] to go out and advise and help, even before that, British helpers and advisers have been working with Nigerian police and military on other issues so they know us, they have worked with us.”
A UK team, which is among international experts on the ground to help find the girls, have said they face “large information gaps”.
The British team, who are in the Nigerian capital Abuja, include counter-terrorism and intelligence experts and are working alongside their American counterparts.
Mr Cameron also publicly backed the #BringBackOurGirls campaign by holding up a sign with the message on the show.
The Twitter campaign has gone viral and helped alert the world to the agony of the Chibok families, as well as to build outrage towards Boko Haram, which has threatened to sell the girls into slavery and uses kidnapping and violence as its signature weapons.
US first lady Michelle Obama on Saturday said she was outraged and heartbroken by the abductions, as she took the rare step of making outspoken foreign policy remarks about the kidnappings.
When delivering husband Barack Obama’s weekly video address, she condemned the “unconscionable” act, saying it was carried out by “a terrorist group determined to keep these girls from getting an education”.
She added: “Like millions of people across the globe, my husband and I are outraged and heartbroken.”
Demonstrations in support of the missing Nigerian girls have been held around the world, while the social media campaign continues to grow.
Mrs Obama and girls’ education campaigner Malala Yousafzai are among hundreds of people who have tweeted a photo of themselves with a sign reading #BringBackOurGirls in a show of support.
According to reports, the search is closing in on a forest near the Cameroon border and the girls have been divided into at least four groups – which would make a rescue more difficult.
Boko Haram has staged many attacks in north-eastern Nigeria over the years, a campaign of bombings and massacres that has intensified despite a strong military offensive.