(CNSNews.com) - Before Boko Haram kidnapped more than 200 Nigerian school girls from the Chibok Government Girls Secondary School last month, the terrorist group committed other less publicized attacks on the region's school children in its "war against education," a Defense Department official told a Senate panel Thursday.
"Unfortunately, these kidnappings are only the most recent outrages in a growing portfolio of attacks perpetrated by Boko Haram in its war against education," Alice Friend, DoD's principal director for African Affairs, said in an opening statement before the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs.
As recently as July 6, 2013, 29 students were killed, "including reports that some were burned alive when their dormitory was deliberately set on fire" in an attack on the Secondary School in Mamudo Village, Friend said.
"Overnight between Sept. 28th and 29th, 2013, upwards of 40 students were slaughtered in a nighttime attack on the Yobe State College of Agriculture," she said. "And in yet another nighttime attack, this at the Buni Yadi Federal Government College in February of this year, at least 59 people, including boys ranging in age from 11 to 18 were killed."
Friend described the efforts that the DoD has taken to assist Nigeria in its "counter-Boko Haram efforts," including the establishment of counter-IED and civilian military operations capacity within the Nigerian Army.
"We have also supported the establishment of an intelligence fusion center in an effort to promote information sharing among various national security entities, and overall to enable more effective and responsible intelligence-driven counter-terrorism operations.," she said.
The DoD "has been deeply concerned for some time by how much" Nigeria has struggled "to keep pace with Boko Haram's growing lethality and capabilities."
Friend also voiced concern about "credible information" that some Nigerian security force units "have committed gross violations of human rights."
"As we have advised the Nigerians, consistent with U.S. law and policy, we review security force units who may receive assistance, and we cannot and do not provide assistance when we have credible information that those units have committed gross violations of human rights," she said.
"With this important consideration in mind, we have worked to engage where and how we are able to, imbuing our engagements and training efforts with human rights and law of armed conflict modules and emphasizing the importance of the broad counter insurgency approach that we ourselves have spent so much blood and treasure fulfilling," Friend added.
"Indeed, if this tragic episode is to end the way we all hope it will, Nigeria's leaders must continue to match their public statements with a serious and focused response that draws on all elements of their government and makes maximum use of the resources international partners are offering to them," she said.