(USA Today) British special forces have joined an international effort to rescue nearly 300 schoolgirls kidnapped by Islamist terrorists in Nigeria.
A team sent from the United Kingdom will help local Nigerian forces plan operations to find the girls, who were seized by the Islamist group Boko Haram on April 14.
The team will fly to Nigeria "as soon as possible", Prime Minister David Cameron's office told the AFP news service.
The Islamic terrorists, who believe girls should not be educated, took the girls from their school and brought them to their base in a heavily forested region of Nigeria. The group's leader has threatened to sell the girls into slavery.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan accepted the British offer of help when he spoke with Cameron on Wednesday by phone Jonathan said the abduction could be a turning point in the battle against Islamist militants that have plagued Nigeria, which is split between a norther Muslim population and southern Christian population.
"I believe that the kidnap of these girls will be the beginning of the end of terror in Nigeria," he said, addressing the World Economic Forum being held in Abuja.
The British team is being sent from the Ministry of Defense and includes a senior military officer and advisers who will join liaison officers for the SAS, Britain's equivalent of special forces, based in the capital Abuja. The Pentagon has ordered 10 advisers to head to Nigeria to assist as well.
Meanwhile, top religious scholars working under the world's largest bloc of Islamic countries said Thursday they strongly condemn the kidnappings. The group's leader has used Islamic teachings as justification for threatening to sell the girls into slavery.
The Islamic Fiqh Academy, which is based in Saudi Arabia and dedicated to the advanced study of Islam, said that this "crime and other crimes committed by the likes of these extremist organizations contradicts all humanitarian principles and moral values and violates the provisions of the Quran and Sunnah," or teachings of the Prophet Muhammad.
"There was no excuse whatsoever for this criminal action which tarnishes the good image of Islam, a tolerant and moderate religion that rejects extremism in all its forms and manifestations," Madani said.