Australia offers Special Forces to help rescue Chibok Schoolgirls

Australian Special Air Service, SAS Photo:

The Australian Government said, Tuesday, it was offering to deploy its Special Forces to help Nigeria rescue more than 200 school girls abducted more than a month ago by extremist Boko Haram.

Australia said the Special Air Service, SAS, regiment are on standby to deploy for the rescue if the Nigerian government accepts the offer.

Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, told Sky News Tuesday that Nigeria is yet to respond.

“Australian troops, the SAS are always on standby for contingencies,” Ms. Bishop said.

“We have made an offer to the Nigerian government to provide whatever support they need to release the girls. We’ve made a specific offer to our UK and US allies … that we are ready to assist in whatever way we can.

“We have not had a response from the Nigerian government.

“They’ve thanked us for our willingness to be involved in trying to rescue the girls but we haven’t had any specific acceptance of the offers that we’ve made.”

The schoolgirls were seized by the insurgent group, Boko Haram, April 14.

They have remained in captivity despite a throng of support from the United States, United Kingdom, France and Israel- all providing surveillance and intelligence support, and specialist teams.

The Nigerian military recently said it knows the location of the girls but would not use force to free them so as not to jeopardise their safety.

Until now, no country offered to send troops into Nigeria for the rescue operations.

The closest was the deployment of 80 troops to Chad by the U.S., which said the personnel will support the operation of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft for missions over northern Nigeria and the surrounding area.

But support for Nigeria have come with a price, with the government taking a humiliating blow over its handling of the Boko Haram crisis. The Nigerian military has also been ridiculed for its shrinking capacity.

A senior U.S. official said the once powerful Nigerian force had become so ineffective it is now “afraid to engage” Boko Haram.

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni also spoke of his preference for suicide, to the foreign military help Nigeria received.

It is not clear if Nigeria’s reluctance at the Australian offer is informed by such backlash.

Australia was first mentioned in the Chibok abduction saga when it emerged last week that a key negotiator commissioned by the Nigerian government to reach out to Boko Haram, is the Australian cleric, Stephen Davis.

Mr. Davis was secretly hired to negotiate the release of the girls, and he came close to a deal two weeks ago before the Nigerian government backed off, according to the UK’s Daily Mail.

The cleric has warned that some of the kidnapped girls are now ill and in need of urgent medical attention.

It also remains unclear what role his apparent knowledge of the girls’ conditions and location, now plays with his country’s offer to help free the girls.

Back home, the Australian government also faces call for caution.

The country’s Green Party, which holds minority seats in the parliament, said the government must come clean with details of the Nigeria operation before getting involved.

“The Greens want to see the schoolgirls in Nigeria rescued,” the party’s leader, Christine Milne, was quoted by ABC Australia as saying.

“It is shocking to think all those young women have been dragged away and we don’t know the circumstances in which they find themselves but I think the PM needs to inform Australia fully as to what Australia would be getting into if we sent troops into Africa.”

The party said it was concerned at Australia again joining a coalition to take on another terrorist war in sub-Saharan Africa, as it did in Afghanistan.

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