UK
07/05/2014 16:43 BST | Updated 07/05/2014 17:59 BST

UK Will Send Team To Help Hunt For Boko Haram And Nigeria's Abducted Girls

Britain is to send a team to Nigeria to help with the search for more than 200 schoolgirls held hostage by radical Islamists Boko Haram, Downing Street has said.

A small team of Whitehall experts will fly to Nigeria to help with the response to the mass abduction from the Chibok secondary school.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan accepted the UK offer of help in a phone call with David Cameron, shortly after the Prime Minister told the House of Commons that the mass abduction was "an act of pure evil".

boko haram

A mother of one of the missing Chibok school girls cries during a rally pressing for the release of the girls

Military officers could take part in the mission, but the emphasis is on planning, advice and co-ordination, Downing Street said. On Tuesday, officials said Britain was prepared to send special forces and intelligence-gathering aircraft to Nigeria.

Who Are Boko Haram? The Islamist Terrorists Who Have Kidnapped More Than 200 Nigerian Schoolgirls

The team will be drawn from various Whitehall departments including Defence, International Development and the Foreign Office.

Cameron's official spokesman said the UK team will fly to the west African state "as soon as possible", but was unable to say how large the group will be. Downing Street stressed that Nigeria's government remains in the lead in the operation.

Talks are under way through the British Embassy in Washington and the High Commission in Nigerian capital Abuja to establish "in short order" what assistance the UK team can most usefully offer.

On Tuesday, US president Barack Obama said Nigeria's government had also accepted help from US military experts to pursue Boko Haram.

The radical jihadist group kidnapped eight other schoolgirls, aged eight to 15, in a raid on a village in Borno state overnight on Monday. These are in addition to the 237 girls who have been held for over three weeks after they were abducted from their school.

"I can only imagine what the parents are going through," Obama said in an interview with NBC.

On Sunday, Boko Haram's leader Abubakar Shekau threatened to "sell your girls in the marketplace" and even hinted that he would kill them and sell their body parts, in a video message released by the groip.

At Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, Cameron said it was vital that Britain stood against the actions of "extreme Islamists" .

"I'm the father of two young daughters and my reaction is the same as every father or mother in this land or the world. This is an act of pure evil. It has united people across the planet to stand with Nigeria to help find these children and return them to their parents."

Cameron's official spokesman said that in a telephone call shortly afterwards, Mr Cameron assured Mr Jonathan of his "shock at the appalling attack.

"President Jonathan accepted the Prime Minister's offer to send a small team of experts drawn from across Whitehall departments to complement the US team committed by President Obama," the spokesman said.