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House Panel Wants More Done To Undermine Boko Haram


The U.S. military has a small number of troops on the ground as part of the effort to find hundreds of Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by the terrorist group Boko Haram. Some in Congress want the U.S. to do more. At a hearing yesterday - which we should warn you included a graphic description of violence - the House Foreign Affairs Committee grilled administration officials about what options the U.S. has, but no clear answer emerged. NPR's Ailsa Chang reports.

AILSA CHANG, BYLINE: Deborah Peter recalled one night in 2011 when she was 12, when three men from Boko Haram forced their way into her home in Chibok, the same Nigerian village where more than 200 schoolgirls were kidnapped in April.

DEBORAH PETER: My brother told them that my dad is in the bathroom taking a shower. So, they were there for, like, three minutes.

CHANG: Then they barged into the bathroom on her father, who was a pastor. The men demanded him to renounce Christianity.

PETER: So, they told him to deny his faith. He told them that he can't deny his faith, so they told him they're going to give him a chance, if he deny his faith, but my dad refused to deny his faith.

CHANG: So, the men shot her father - three times in the chest. Her teenage brother cried out and the men killed him, too, shooting him in the mouth. Deborah Peter is the face behind the message members of Congress wanted to drive home Wednesday, that the U.S. has well understood the threat of Boko Haram, but still has not done enough.

REPRESENTATIVE GREGORY MEEKS: I'm going to tell you - for me, I want drones. I want something, because they don't belong on this earth.

CHANG: Democrat Gregory Meeks of New York joined a rare bipartisan chorus in the House yesterday. They found it difficult to believe the U.S. couldn't do more with its military. Here's Committee Chair Ed Royce.

REPRESENTATIVE ED ROYCE: U.S. forces are trained to deal with hostage situations. Unfortunately, the Nigerian forces are not.

CHANG: As the White House pointed out in a letter to Congress yesterday, it has already sent 80 troops to neighboring Chad as part of an effort to recover the girls. But state official Sarah Sewall says to avoid more deaths, it's ultimately up to the Nigerian government to cultivate the trust and cooperation of local communities.

SARAH SEWALL: It's abundantly clear that if we are to move to address Boko Haram as an enduring threat beyond the question of these 200-plus schoolgirls, that the Nigerian government itself has to make changes. It has to address corruption. It has to address the excessive use of violence.

CHANG: That's because under U.S. law, corruption and violence is what bars the U.S. from giving military assistance to foreign military units that have committed human rights violations. Ailsa Chang, NPR News, the Capitol. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who hosts All Things Considered along with Ari Shapiro, Audie Cornish, and Mary Louise Kelly. She landed in public radio after practicing law for a few years.