France calls for summit on Nigeria abductions

French President Hollande suggested with his Nigerian counterpart President Jonathan a meeting of Nigeria’s neighboring countries

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French President Francois Hollande called Sunday for African leaders to hold a summit in Paris on security in west Africa focusing on the Islamist group Boko Haram, who have abducted scores of schoolgirls in Nigeria.

“I suggested, with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, a meeting of Nigeria’s neighboring countries,” Agence France-Presse quoted him as saying during a visit to the Azerbaijan capital Baku.

The meeting will take place on Saturday “if the countries agree,” he added.

Global outrage over Boko Haram’s abduction of 200 schoolgirls last month has focused attention on the group, which has destabilized large swathes of northeast Nigeria and its neighbors.

Boko Haram, whose name is loosely translated as “Western education is forbidden” kidnapped the girls from their dormitory on April 14, and has threatened to sell them.

Hollande’s aides said that the leaders of Nigeria, Benin, Cameroon, Chad and Niger might attend. Britain, the European Union and the United States would likely be represented as well.

France, Britain, the United States and other countries have said they were sending experts to help Nigeria track down and free the schoolgirls.

Nigeria’s army has mobilized two divisions to hunt for the schoolgirls as Jonathan’s government has faced criticism for not responding more quickly to the abductions.

A French priest was released in December after being kidnapped the previous month in northern Cameroon, a region where Boko Haram is known to operate.

The group kidnapped a French family of seven on holiday in northern Cameroon in Feb. 2013 and released them the following April.

(With AFP and Reuters)

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