WASHINGTON - Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called the kidnapping of nearly 300 girls in Nigeria by an Islamic extremist group an "act of terrorism" and accused the Nigerian government on Wednesday of being "somewhat derelict" in protecting its people.
Clinton, speaking at a philanthropy conference in New York, forcefully urged the Nigerian government to do everything it can to bring the captive girls home safely and accept help from the United States and other nations.
"The seizure of these young women by this radical extremist group, Boko Haram, is abominable, it's criminal, it's an act of terrorism and it really merits the fullest response possible, first and foremost by the government of Nigeria," Clinton said in an interview with ABC News' Robin Roberts at Philanthropy New York.
The April 15 abduction has generated outrage around the globe and calls for Nigeria to liberate the girls before they can be sold into slavery or harmed. Nigeria's police have said more than 300 girls were abducted from their secondary school in the country's remote northeast. Of that number, 276 remained in captivity and 53 managed to escape.
The terrorist group's leader, Abubakar Shekau, threatened to sell the girls during a grainy video released this week.
The Pentagon said it was sending fewer than 10 troops to Nigeria as part of the U.S. effort to help find the girls but had no plans to launch a military operation. The troops, part of a larger U.S. assistance team that will include State Department and Justice Department personnel, will help with communications, logistics and intelligence planning.
Clinton, a potential 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, said the Nigerian government "has been, in my view, somewhat derelict in its responsibility toward protecting boys and girls, men and women, in northern Nigeria in the last years. They need to make it a priority to do everything they can to try to bring these girls home safety."
Clinton took to Twitter on Sunday to urge their release, ending her message with the popular hashtag, "(hashtag) Bring Back Our Girls."
At the conference, Clinton also questioned the need for more congressional oversight into the deadly attack on the diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya. The Republican-led House is expected to establish a select committee to investigate the Obama administration's response to the attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans on Sept. 11, 2012.
Clinton, who headed the State Department at the time, said there were "a lot of reasons" why some people involved in the investigations "choose not to be satisfied."
"I do not believe there is any reason for it to continue in this way, but they get to call the shots in the Congress," she said.
Republicans have accused the White House of misleading the nation in the heart of President Barack Obama's re-election campaign by playing down intelligence suggesting Benghazi was a major, al-Qaida-linked terrorist attack. Democrats have said the investigations are politically motivated and aimed at hurting congressional Democrats in the November elections and damaging a Clinton presidential campaign if she decides to seek the White House again.
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