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World

U.S. Lawmakers Renew Calls To Find Nigerian Girls Captured By Boko Haram

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

It's been two years since Boko Haram militants raided a school in Nigeria, capturing hundreds of girls. It sparked outrage around the world and the social media campaign, Bring Back Our Girls. But now CNN is airing what it says is a proof of life video. It was reportedly made in December and shows some of the more than 200 missing students. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports that the video is sparking new cause in Washington for action, including from someone who knows the girls well.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: A young Nigerian woman who goes by the name Saa is one of the lucky few. When she and her classmates were kidnapped two years ago, she says she managed to jump off a truck and escape. Saa was emotional today after watching that proof of life video on CNN.

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SAA: When I saw the video of my classmates - 15 of them - that they're still alive, I was so touched immediately when I saw the video. I started crying, and I just wish I can talk to them. I just wish they can hear me. I just wish I can tell them how much we miss them.

KELEMEN: Now in college in the U.S. and not using her real name to protect her family back in Nigeria, she was surrounded by members of Congress who are pushing for more U.S. action.

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SAA: And I just wanted to tell the world today that let's not give up.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: No, we won't.

SAA: Let's not forget about these girls. Let's keep praying for them.

KELEMEN: Standing alongside her was Florida Congresswoman Frederica Wilson who, from glittery cowboy hat to boots, was decked out all in red, the color of her Bring Back Our Girls campaign.

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FREDERICA WILSON: This is an anniversary that none of us thought that we would have to mark because we thought by now we would have found the Chibok girls.

KELEMEN: Two hundred and nineteen are still missing and Boko Haram continues to terrorize large parts of Nigeria and neighboring countries. The U.N. Children's Fund says the group has used boys to attack their own families, while girls are forced into marriage or increasingly sent on suicide missions. That report alarmed Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, a Democrat from Texas.

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SHEILA JACKSON LEE: Boko Haram has begun to use young girls as young as 8 as suicide bombers. And they are strapping these vulnerable youngsters, babies who will never see their families again, and they are killing.

KELEMEN: She's proposing a victims fund and says the U.S. should help Nigeria's military work more closely with its neighbors to fight Boko Haram. White House spokesman Josh Earnest says the U.S. is already doing that.

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JOSH EARNEST: That assistance includes significant intelligence resources and capabilities that we can offer them. The United States also has provided training and strategic advice to the Nigerian authorities who are conducting the search.

KELEMEN: Outside the Capitol, Congressman Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican, says the U.S. could be doing more.

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CHRIS SMITH: We need to stand with the Nigerians as friends and partners and, again, help them with the training and counterinsurgency which we have learned the hard way over the course of many decades, so there are skill sets that could be imparted.

KELEMEN: Hundreds, possibly thousands, of children have been kidnapped since the Chibok girls were taken two years ago. And the members of Congress who gathered outside the Capitol today to mark this grim anniversary, say they're worried that Boko Haram has now aligned itself with ISIS and could become a more direct security threat to the U.S. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.