Watch above: Canada is one of the countries answering Nigeria’s call for help, as the urgency to find nearly 300 kidnapped schoolgirls intensifies. Jennifer Tryon reports.
Canadian politicians will hold an emergency debate Monday night to discuss the mass kidnapping of hundreds of schoolgirls in Nigeria.
The Canadian government confirmed Wednesday it had offered Nigeria surveillance equipment and expertise to assist with efforts to locate and rescue 276 girls still missing after Islamist militant group Boko Haram attacked the Chibok Government Girls Secondary School, in northeastern state of Borno, on Apr. 14.
NDP Foreign Affairs critic Paul Dewar requested the emergency debate in a letter to Speaker of the House of Commons Andrew Scheer on Wednesday, to discuss how Canada will assist.
“This is the very definition of an emergency. Hundreds of young innocent lives are at stake, along with the political and social direction of a country and a region. Parliamentarians need an opportunity to discuss an appropriate Canadian response to this crisis,” Dewar wrote.
Boko Haram Abubakar Shekau claimed responsibility for the abduction of more than 300 girls and threatened to sell them as “slaves.”
Another group of eight girls was kidnapped Sunday night from the town of Warabe, also in Borno state.
Nigeria’s vice president Namadi Sambo, during a visit with International Development Minister Christian Paradis, asked Canada for surveillance equipment and other “vital security hardware which would enhance Nigeria’s capacity in addressing insurgency.”
But Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Wednesday Canada would provide the surveillance equipment to search for the missing girls and only as long as there is Canadian personnel to operate it.
“We obviously would have concerns with Nigeria, with their human rights record… of just simply providing millions of dollars of military equipment as some sort of permanent gift,” Baird said following Question Period in the House of Commons on Wednesday.
Boko Haram may want to exchange girls for prisoners: report
British newspaper The Telegraph reported on Thursday Boko Haram could be using the captive girls as “bargaining chips” in a bid to seek the release of imprisoned militants.
The Daily Telegraph spoke with Shehu Sani, a man who has negotiated with Boko Haram in the past.
“If you look at the fact that these girls have already been in captivity for some three weeks, then it is possible to detect a conciliatory tone in this statement from Shekau – he is not saying he is going to kill the girls,” Sani told the publication.
He explained it’s possible they want to “attach some kind of conditions to the girls being released.”
Speaking at the World Economic Forum meeting in Abuja, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said the situation marked a “turning point” in the fight against Boko Haram.
“I believe that the kidnap of these girls will be the beginning of the end of terror in Nigeria,” he said during a speech, in which he thanked the United States, United Kingdom and France for the assistance they have offered.
Those three countries have all sent experts to the country to assist Nigerian authorities with the search for the girls.
Jonathan also expressed his appreciation to those in attendance, in spite of recent attacks.
“If you had refused to come because of fear, the terrorists would have jubilated,” the BBC reported Jonathan saying.
WATCH: International pressure mounts to find kidnapped Nigerian girls – but is it too late?
Nigerian confirms details of massacre near Cameroon border
The Nigerian government on Thursday confirmed reports gunmen attacked the town of Gamboru Ngala, near the border with Cameroon, late Monday.
Residents of Gamboru Ngala reported more than 300 people were killed when militants, believed to be Boko Haram, opened fire in a night market and set fires to shops and homes.
But, the Nigerian government has said the death toll is between 100 and 150 people.
Federal Senator Ahmed Zannah blamed Boko Haram for the attack, ThisDay reported.
According to Zannah, whose brother was at the scene of the attack, “dead bodies littered the market.”
Zannah told ThisDay Nigerian security forces had been in Gamboru Ngala to protect the area from a possible attack, but left a short time before the assault to follow up on reports Boko Haram militants were moving towards the border region with captive girls.
“Upon receiving information over the movement of insurgents with kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls towards Lake Chad area, they withdrew and moved to confront the gunmen,” he said.
“It was just an hour after their withdrawal that the terrorists invaded the town, shooting everyone in sight and setting buildings on fire.”
The attack and the kidnappings are the latest incident attributed to Boko Haram, which has been fighting a deadly campaign to establish an Islamic state governed by Sharia law for the past five years.
WATCH: US Seceratary of State John Kerry says the United States is doing “everything possible” to combat Boko Haram
Boko Haram has been fighting to establish an Islamic state in Nigeria, governed by Sharia law, for the past five years and has been responsible for a string of deadly attacks.
According to The Associated Press, there have been at least 1,500 deaths as a result of Boko Haram-related violence this year alone.
The Canadian government listed Boko Haram as a terrorist organization under the Criminal Code of Canada in December 2013.
With files from The Associated Press
CLARIFICATION: An earlier version of this story indicated eight girls were kidnapped from Warabe Monday night. The abduction happened Sunday night.