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Muslim religious officials condemn Islamic extremist group for abducting girls in Nigeria

The abduction three weeks ago of hundreds of schoolgirls in Nigeria by the Muslim extremist group Boko Haram is now generating worldwide attention and condemnation. Muslim leaders in various countries have criticized Boko Haram's leader for using Islamic teachings as his justification for threatening to sell the girls into slavery. Others have focused on what they view as a slow response by Nigeria's government to the crisis. The British and French governments announced Wednesday that they would send teams of experts to complement the U.S. team heading to Nigeria to help with the search for the girls, and Nigeria's president said China has also offered assistance.

Some of the reactions to the crisis:

— EGYPT: Religious Endowments Minister Mohammed Mohktar Gomaa said "the actions by Boko Haram are pure terrorism, with no relation to Islam, especially the kidnapping of the girls."

Sheik Ahmed el-Tayeb of the Cairo-based Al-Azhar, one of Sunni Islam's most prestigious institutions, said the abductions "completely contradict Islam and its principles of tolerance."

— PAKISTAN: Dawn, an English language newspaper, published an opinion piece that takes Nigeria to task for not moving against Boko Haram. "The popular upsurge in Nigeria in the wake of the latest unspeakable atrocity provides some scope for hoping that the state will finally act decisively to obliterate the growing menace," wrote columnist Mahir Ali.

— INDONESIA: In the world's most populous Muslim-majority country, the Jakarta Post published an editorial Wednesday condemning the Boko Haram leader for "wrongly" citing Islamic teaching as his excuse for selling the abducted girls into slavery. Recalling the Taliban's shooting of 15-year-old Pakistani girl Malala Yousafzai in 2012 because of her outspokenness in defence of girls' right to an education, the editorial said: "Malala's message needs to be conveyed to all people who use their power to block children's access to education. It is saddening that religion is misused to terrorize people and to kill the future leaders of the world."

The newspaper also criticized Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, noting that "only after international condemnation and street demonstrations poured in did President Jonathan tell his nation that he would take all necessary actions to return the young women to their parents and schools, while also acknowledging that the whereabouts of the abductees remained unknown."

— SWEDEN: In an editorial posted on the left-wing news website politism.se, blogger Nikita Feiz criticized the international community for its slow response and asked why the situation hadn't triggered as loud a reaction as when Malala was shot in Pakistan. "Looking at the situation in Nigeria, Malala appears like a false promise from the West that it would stand up for girls' rights to attend school without fear of being subjected to sexual exploitation and abuse," she said. "It is difficult not to draw the conclusion that the West's assurance to act for girls' rights suddenly isn't as natural when it comes to girls' rights in a country in Africa."

— UNITED STATES: The U.S. government is sending to Nigeria a team of technical experts, including American military and law enforcement personnel skilled in intelligence, investigations, hostage negotiating, information sharing and victim assistance, as well as officials with expertise in other areas. Fewer than 10 military troops are also going.

In an editorial, The New York Times faulted the Nigeria's president: "It wasn't until Sunday, more than two weeks after the kidnappings, that he called a meeting of government officials, including the leader of the girls' school, to discuss the incident."

— BRITAIN: Prime Minister David Cameron's office said Britain will send a small team of experts to Nigeria, following protests over the weekend outside the Nigerian Embassy in London and editorials calling for action. Jonathan's office later issued a statement saying Britain would use satellite images and other tracking technologies to help in the search.

— FRANCE: A specialized French team will be arriving soon in Nigeria, according to President Francois Hollande's office. It wasn't immediately clear if the team was made up of a special military unit or intelligence agents. France also said it would make available observation equipment. France has satellite means and two unarmed American-made drones in neighbouring Niger used to track extremists in Mali.

— CHINA: Premier Li Keqiang visited Nigeria on Wednesday and met with Jonathan, whose office said the Chinese leader promised that his government "will make any useful information acquired by its satellites and intelligence services available to Nigeria's security agencies." The statement also said China will support "Nigeria's fight against terrorism in every possible way, including the training of military personnel for anti-insurgency operations."

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Associated Press correspondents Lee Keath in Cairo, Michelle Faul in Lagos, Nigeria, Gregory Katz in London, Malin Rising in Stockholm and Masha Macpherson in Paris contributed.

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