Updated — May 6, 8:28 p.m. ET
Three weeks after nearly 300 Nigerian girls were kidnapped, the White House is offering "counterterrorism assistance" to the Nigerian government, White House press secretary Jay Carney said Monday.
"The State Department has been in regular touch with the Nigerian government about what we might do to help support its efforts to find and free these young women," Carney said.
"When it comes to what specifically we are doing, our counterterrorism assistance in Nigeria focuses on information-sharing, on improving Nigeria's forensics and investigative capacity," he said. "It also stresses the importance of protecting civilians and assuring that human rights are protected and respected. We are working with the Nigerian government to strengthen its criminal justice system and increase confidence in the government by supporting its efforts to hold those responsible for violence accountable."
President Obama said Tuesday a U.S. team was already on the ground in Nigeria providing military and law enforcement assistance.
Secretary of State John Kerry revealed Tuesday that the U.S. embassy in Nigeria plans to form a "coordination cell" to help with intelligence and hostage negotiations. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan was "happy" to receive the help, Kerry added.
Nigerian Islamist militant group Boko Haram kidnapped the girls April 15. On Monday, the group released a video threatening to sell the girls as brides.
Activists have taken to the internet to raise awareness about the kidnappings.
A 16-year-old girl who was among those kidnapped spoke recently to the Associated Press. She said the gun-toting men came into her school and initially identified themselves as soldiers, before removing food and setting a room on fire.
The men then yelled "Allahu Akhbar" and the girls realized they weren't soldiers.
The 16-year-old said there were too many men to count, so the girls sat obediently in the dirt. The kidnappers then loaded the girls into pickup trucks and drove them through three villages.
The 16-year-old escaped when a car full of fighters that was following the trucks broke down. At that point, the girl and her friend jumped from the truck and ran into the brush to hide. Other girls clung to low-hanging tree branches waiting for the trucks to pass.
After the kidnappers moved on the girls made their way back home. The AP reported that about 50 girls escaped on the day of the kidnappings.
Nigerian demonstrators have accused President Jonathan of insensitivity to the situation. Two demonstrators told the Associated Press they were arrested on orders from Jonathan's wife, first lady Patience Jonathan. A statement from the first lady denied the demonstrators were arrested, saying instead they were merely "invited ... (to) an interactive and fact-finding interview. "