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Published: Wednesday May 7, 2014 MYT 10:25:02 PM
Updated: Wednesday May 7, 2014 MYT 10:25:58 PM

France offers to send agents to Nigeria for kidnapped girls

PARIS (Reuters) - France on Wednesday offered to send security service agents to Nigeria to help recover more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by Islamist militant group Boko Haram, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said.

With more than 4,000 troops operating between Mali to the west and Central African Republic to the east, Paris has a major interest in preventing Nigeria's security situation from deteriorating, having previously voiced concerns Boko Haram could spread further north into the Sahel.

"The President has instructed ... to put the (intelligence) services at the disposal of Nigeria and neighbouring countries," Fabius told lawmakers.

"This morning he asked us to contact the Nigerian president to tell him that a specialised unit with all the means we have in the region was at the disposal of Nigeria to help find and recover these young girls."

Boko Haram kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls last month and has threatened to sell them into slavery. Suspected Boko Haram gunmen kidnapped eight more girls from a village near one of the Islamists' strongholds in northeastern Nigeria overnight, police and residents said on Tuesday

"In the face of such ignominy France must react. This crime cannot be left unpunished," Fabius said.

(Reporting By John Irish; Editing by Andrew Callus)

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