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In April 2014, 276 school girls were abducted from a secondary school in the town of Chibok, north-eastern Nigeria, by the militant Islamist group Boko Haram. Their kidnapping led to the creation of a large global social media campaign, #BringBackOurGirls. The campaign’s leaders were highly critical of the former president of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, who was in charge when the girls were originally abducted, and they have become increasingly dissatisfied with the performance of his successor, Muhammadu Buhari since he took office 15 months ago.

The bulk of the girls are still missing. On 14 August 2016 Boko Haram released a video showing about 50 of the girls. It featured a demand for the release of imprisoned militants in exchange for them. The group also claimed that some of the girls had been killed or injured in government air strikes. Boko Haram has kidnapped hundreds of other women and girls since the beginning of 2014.

President Muhammadu Buhari has said that he is willing to enter into negotiations if a credible Boko Haram leadership emerges. There have been unconfirmed reports that there have been efforts to get negotiations going. But Boko Haram appears recently to have split, with so-called Islamic State/Daesh, to which Boko Haram declared its loyalty in 2015, announcing a new leader. The Nigerian military has also been conducting operations in the Sambisa Forest, where many believe the girls are being held, since May. In late-August, the military claimed that it had killed several Boko Haram leaders in an air strike, with its deposed leader, Abubakar Shekau, “fatally wounded”. All in all, Boko Haram appears down but it is not yet out. There are also wider concerns about the humanitarian situation in the north-east.

The US, UK and France have all been providing training and support to the Nigerian military in its fight against Boko Haram and in the search for the missing girls. Over the course of 2015, 130 UK personnel were deployed to Nigeria as part of military training teams. In December 2015 the Defence Secretary announced that the UK was increasing its support to the Nigerian army. Over the course of 2016 the number of British personnel deployed on training tasks in Nigeria will double, with up to 300 personnel expected to provide support this year. A specialist team to provide assistance in countering IEDs and provide medical training and advice is being deployed, in addition to a new RAF training team to improve the knowledge and skills of the Nigerian Air Force in airfield defence and counter insurgency. The UK also supports a Nigerian intelligence and analysis cell focused on the north-east and based in Abuja.

The UK has also provided £5 million to support the Multinational Joint Task Force set up by Nigeria and its neighbours to combat Boko Haram.

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