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Reward offered in Nigerian schoolgirl abductions

By Isha Sesay, Vlad Duthiers and Chelsea J. Carter CNN | 5/7/2014, 10:10 a.m.
A little girl is among the members of the groups #bringbackourgirls and #276 demonstrating outside the Nigerian Embassy in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, May 6, 2014. They are demanding that the Nigerian government do more to recover hundreds of girls kidnaped from their school by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram in Nigeria on April 14th.

ABUJA, Nigeria - Nigerian authorities offered a reward of about $310,000 Wednesday for information leading to the rescue of 276 schoolgirls abducted last month by the terror group Boko Haram.

The reward offer came the same day reports emerged of a Boko Haram attack Monday in the town of Gamboru Ngala, near the border with Cameroon. At least 150 people died, according to a Nigerian Senator and several eyewitnesses.

It also comes as U.S. officials are preparing to send law enforcement and military assistance to help find the girls, who were abducted on April 14.

"While calling on the general public to be part of the solution to the present security challenge, the Police High Command also reassures all citizens that any information given would be treated anonymously and with utmost confidentiality," the Nigeria Police Force said in a statement.

President Goodluck Jonathan has come under fire after waiting three weeks to publicly acknowledge the kidnappings in northern Nigeria, where Boko Haram is rampant.

His administration, however, is defending its response -- even as details emerged Tuesday about a second mass kidnapping.

"The President and the government (are) not taking this as easy as people all over the world think," said presidential spokesman Doyin Okupe.

"We've done a lot, but we are not talking about it. We're not Americans. We're not showing people, you know, but it does not mean that we are not doing something," Okupe siad.

The presidential spokesman said helicopters and planes have searched for the girls in 250 locations. More troops, he said, are on the way.

U.S. aid accepted

Nigeria's President also accepted an offer of U.S. military support in the search for the girls.

"So what we've done is we have offered -- and it's been accepted -- help from our military and our law enforcement officials," U.S. President Barack Obama told NBC News on Tuesday. "We're going to do everything we can to provide assistance to them."

That help includes the creation of a "coordination cell" to provide intelligence, investigations and hostage negotiation expertise, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. The cell will include U.S. military personnel, she said.

The joint coordination cell will be established at the U.S. Embassy in the capital of Abuja, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the work is expected to begin immediately.

The Pentagon has started planning for how it can help Nigeria, a senior U.S. military official told CNN. U.S. military assistance will likely be limited to intelligence, mission planning and hostage negotiations, several officials told CNN. It's unlikely at this point that U.S. troops would be involved in operations, the officials said.

Despite the flurry of activity, the father of two of the schoolgirls taken by Boko Haram scoffed at the Nigerian government's response.

"We have never seen any military man there," said the father, who is not being identified for fear of reprisals by the government or Boko Haram.

"Had it been military men who went into the bush to rescue our daughters, we would have seen them."