Yola, Nigeria • Islamic extremists blew up a bridge, killed an unknown number of people and abducted the wife and two children of a retired police officer in northeast Nigeria, residents said Saturday amid mounting condemnation by Muslims of the Nigerian terrorist network that abducted more than 300 schoolgirls nearly a month ago.
News of Friday night’s attack came as international efforts to help rescue the 276 missing girls got underway.
A team of French experts arrived Saturday in Nigeria, said an official in President Francois Hollande’s office in Paris. He said they are expert in collecting intelligence from technical and human sources and in image analysis.
British security experts arrived Friday to join Nigerian and American forces, and Britain said its aim is not only to help in the crisis over the girls but to defeat Nigeria’s homegrown Boko Haram terrorist network.
International outrage at the prolonged failure of Nigeria’s military to rescue the girls was joined Saturday by U.S. first lady Michelle Obama. In a radio address on the eve of the Sunday honoring mothers in the United States she said she and President Barack Obama are “outraged and heartbroken” over the April 15 mass abduction.
“In these girls, Barack and I see our own daughters,” Mrs. Obama said, referring to Malia, 15, and Sasha, 12. “We see their hopes, their dreams and we can only imagine the anguish their parents are feeling right now.”
One of them, the Rev. Enoch Mark, described his despair and anger at the military for not finding his two abducted daughters. “For a good 11 days, our daughters were sitting in one place,” he told The Associated Press. “They camped them near Chibok (the town from which they were abducted), not more than 30 kilometers, and no help in hand.”
A well-known Nigerian Islamic scholar meanwhile warned that having foreign soldiers on Nigerian soil could escalate the conflict and draw foreign extremists to the West African nation. Ahmed Mahmud-Gumi, speaking in northern Kaduna city on Friday, said it “may trigger waves of terrorism never seen before.”
“Foreign terrorists are eager to engage foreign forces, making Nigeria just another battle ground” like Afghanistan and Iraq, he said.
Former Nigerian military ruler Gen. Ibrahim Babangida urged the country’s Muslims to rise up against the extremists sullying the name of Islam.
“Islam enjoins you to live peacefully with fellow human beings. ... Therefore, anybody who will come and smear our name, all Muslims should kick against that. Muslims should also do everything possible to stop this continued blackmail against the religion of Islam,” he said in an interview Saturday with the BBC Hausa Service.