ABUJA, Nigeria Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan met through the night with security, school and state officials and issued a new directive that "everything must be done" to free the 276 girls kidnapped by Islamic extremists, one of his advisers said Sunday.
It was the first time the president met with all stakeholders, including the principal of the Chibok Government Girls Secondary School where the girls and young women were kidnapped in a pre-dawn raid April 15, presidential adviser Reuben Abati told reporters.
Nigerians' outrage at the failure to rescue the students and protest marches last week in major Nigerian cities as well as New York City have spurred to action Jonathan's government, which many see as uncaring of the girls' plight.
"The president has given very clear directives that everything must be done to ensure that these girls must be brought back to safety," Abati said.
The police said last week that the actual number abducted had risen to more than 300 and that 276 remain in captivity. It said 53 of the students managed to escape their captors. None have been rescued by the military which initially said it was in hot pursuit of the abductors.
Some of the girls been forced into "marriage" with their abductors and paid a nominal bride price of $12, according to a federal senator from the area whose report is unverified. Some of the young women have been taken across Nigeria's borders to Cameroon and Chad, the parents said last week quoting villagers. Child marriage is common in northern Nigeria, where it is allowed under Islamic law that clashes with the country's Western-style constitution.
Anguished parents in Chibok town, who have lost confidence in the government and military, have been begging for international help.
The United States and Britain, Nigeria's former colonizer, have promised unspecified help. Both countries help with counter-terrorism training and could provide satellite images that might help the search.
"The kidnapping of hundreds of children by Boko Haram is an unconscionable crime and we will do everything possible to support the Nigerian government to return these young women to their homes and to hold the perpetrators to justice," said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday, in a speech in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Nigeria is confronting an increasingly bloody 5-year-old Islamic uprising. Two bomb blasts in three weeks in Abuja, the capital, have killed about 100 people and wounded more than 200. More than 1,500 people have died in the insurgency this year, compared to an estimated 3,600 between 2010 and 2013.