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On April 14th, armed members of the terrorist group Boko Haram abducted 276 girls during a raid at an all-girls school in the northeast village of Chibok, Nigeria; reports indicate that the girls are being sold as wives for $12 each in a massive, brazen act of human trafficking

In a bipartisan letter to President Obama, Kirk and Klobuchar called on the Administration to immediately provide intelligence support to help locate and recover the kidnapped girls and to bolster anti-trafficking assistance in the region

Kirk and Klobuchar have been leaders in the effort to fight human trafficking and have introduced bipartisan legislation to crack down on sex trafficking and ensure that victims of these horrific crimes receive the support they need

WASHINGTON. DC – U.S. Senators Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) called on President Obama to take immediate action to help find more than 200 kidnapped Nigerian girls. On April 14th, armed members of the terrorist group Boko Haram abducted 276 girls during a raid at an all-girls school in the northeast village of Chibok, Nigeria. Reports indicate that the girls are being sold as wives for $12 each in a massive, brazen act of human trafficking. In a bipartisan letter to President Obama, Klobuchar and Kirk called on the Administration to immediately provide intelligence support to help locate and recover the kidnapped girls and to bolster anti-trafficking assistance in the region. They also urged the Administration to seek a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning the attack and to bolster the capacity of Nigeria and neighboring states to combat human trafficking and protect children. Klobuchar and Kirk have been leaders in the effort to fight human trafficking and have introduced bipartisan legislation to crack down on sex trafficking and ensure that victims of these horrific crimes receive the support they need.

“More than three weeks have passed since the abduction, but little progress has been made towards freeing the girls. There are reports that the girls are being forced into marriages with their captors and the leader of Boko Haram has openly threatened to sell them,” the Senators said. “This outrage demands a significant worldwide response to help rescue the abducted girls, combat Boko Haram in Africa, and stand against the broader threat of modern-day slavery.”

On April 14, Boko Haram abducted 276 girls ages 15-18 from their school in Chibok, Nigeria. According to witnesses, members of Boko Haram abducted the girls from their school dormitories and forced them into trucks that drove toward the forest near the Cameroon border. Yesterday, Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, said in a video that the organization was responsible for kidnapping the girls and that they would sell them. Today, news reports indicated that Boko Haram was responsible for the kidnapping of 8 additional Nigerian girls overnight near a stronghold in northeast Nigeria. Boko Haram, which means “Western education is sinful,” has a history of systematically targeting schools and kidnapping and killing children.

Kirk and Klobuchar have worked together to fight sex trafficking both in the U.S. and around the world. Klobuchar recently introduced bipartisan legislation cosponsored by Kirk that would give prosecutors tools to crack down on domestic minor sex trafficking and ensure victims of these horrific crimes receive the support they need. The Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act is modeled after Minnesota’s “Safe Harbor” laws that help ensure minors sold for sex aren’t prosecuted as criminals but are instead treated as victims. The bill also allows victims of sex trafficking to participate in the Job Corps program to help them get back on their feet, and would create a National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking to encourage cooperation among all the federal, state, and local agencies that work on this problem. A full summary of the legislation can be found here.

In addition to the Kirk-Klobuchar bill, Senator Kirk also has partnered with Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) on The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, which would give law enforcement officials the tools they need to prosecute each person involved in underage sex trafficking. This legislation would allow for law enforcement to hold those involved in human trafficking personally accountable for their crimes.

The full text of the Senators’ letter is below:

Dear President Obama,

We write to express our concern over the abduction and ongoing captivity of over 200 Nigerian schoolgirls by the terrorist group Boko Haram. More than three weeks have passed since the abduction, but little progress has been made towards freeing the girls. There are reports that the girls are being forced into marriages with their captors and the leader of Boko Haram has openly threatened to sell them.

This outrage demands a significant worldwide response to help rescue the abducted girls, combat Boko Haram in Africa, and stand against the broader threat of modern-day slavery. We believe the United States should help lead that international effort and hope you will consider three actions to help marshal a global response to this heinous crime.

First, the United States should seek a resolution from the United Nations Security Council condemning this attack and calling on member countries to extend all appropriate assistance to Nigeria and neighboring countries to help locate the victims of Boko Haram’s abductions and bring them home.

Second, the United States should act as quickly as possible to provide intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance support to contribute to the search for the missing girls. American support with aerial and satellite surveillance, similar to what your administration has provided to assist the hunt for Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army in central Africa, could make a significant difference in their ability to liberate the captives. We appreciate that your Administration is offering to share relevant intelligence with the Nigerian government and hope you will ensure that U.S. agencies deepen their cooperation with their Nigerian counterparts during this crisis and in the future to help prevent Boko Haram from carrying out future attacks.

Finally, the United States should strengthen the capabilities of local authorities in Nigeria and other countries in the region to protect children, particularly girls, and combat human trafficking. Training local law enforcement, prosecutors, and judges to recognize trafficking when they see it is critically important to apprehending traffickers and recovering the victims. Yet the United States’ current security sector assistance programs in the region remain weighted towards the region’s armed forces rather than building the capacity of civilian law enforcement to protect citizens where they live. The Department of State, Department of Justice, and U.S. Agency for International Development should help design and implement robust programs to help bolster anti-trafficking efforts in these countries.

We have both led efforts to combat human trafficking, particularly against women and girls. We have introduced bipartisan anti-trafficking legislation focused on supporting victims and cracking down on perpetrators and enablers in the United States, but we are also working to ensure this problem is addressed on an international level as well. The current crisis in Nigeria represents another key moment in this struggle, and we look forward to working with you to support regional and international efforts to rescue these abducted schoolgirls and hold their captors accountable.

Sincerely,

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