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Kerry Urges Nigeria To Hold Credible Elections In Face Of Violence


In another diplomatic move, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrives in Nigeria today. He will urge the country to hold credible elections next month and do more to counter the extremist group Boko Haram. Just this morning, the Nigerian military said Boko Haram had killed dozens of people in northeastern Nigeria. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Secretary Kerry has described Boko Haram as one of the most evil and threatening terrorist groups on the planet.


SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: The Boko Haram video showed thugs shooting defenseless people on the ground with the narrator saying, from now on, killing, slaughtering, destruction and bombings will be our religious duty.

KELEMEN: The Islamist militants control a large part of northern Nigeria. Last year, the U.S. sent a team to help Nigeria save abducted schoolgirls. But those girls remain missing and tensions have been rising between the U.S. and Nigeria, according to Jennifer Cooke of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

JENNIFER COOKE: The U.S., on the one hand, has been highly critical of the Nigerian military's response to Boko Haram, the human rights abuses. On the other hand, the Nigerians feeling that the U.S. has kind of abandoned them in their moment of greatest need.

KELEMEN: Cooke says the U.S. is also worried about what's expected to be a very contentious election on February 14.

COOKE: If the military and the political forces are squabbling over an election result, there's a big opportunity for Boko Haram to expand its hold in the Northeast.

KELEMEN: The State Department says Kerry is using his visit to talk with the country's president and leading opposition candidate and to call for a credible and peaceful vote. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.