Washington (CNN) – Sen. Susan Collins told CNN in an interview that she wants the U.S. military to help rescue more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped in Nigeria.
“More can be done by this administration. I would like to see Special Forces deployed to help rescue these young girls. Some of these girls are as young as nine years old,” said Collins.
“They’re being sold into slavery, forced into marriages, required to convert. This is just horrible,” she said.
Collins joined Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski in writing a bipartisan letter Tuesday to President Barack Obama asking the administration to do more. It was signed by all 20 women senators.
But the letter focused on the diplomatic front, and urged Obama to press the United Nations to add Boko Haram to its al Qaeda Sanctions List.
Boko Haram, which has claimed responsibility for the kidnappings in April, is a militant group that has received assistance in the past from al Qaeda, according to the State Department. The United States has branded it a terror group.
“Every single woman immediately signed that letter, because she wanted to lend her voice to the international outrage,” said Mikulski.
“The women of the Senate won’t be quiet,” she said.
The comments came as word surfaced of even more abductions this week.
Mikulski, interviewed by CNN alongside Collins, was more circumspect on the idea of sending American troops on a rescue mission. Instead, she hopes regional governments take the lead.
“It has to start with the Nigerian President, using his resources, an African regional coalition, and then call upon the expertise of nations that have Special Forces, special intelligence data, satellites, etc.,” said Mikulski.
“Find the girls, rescue the girls, punish the bad guys and send a message: we won’t tolerate it. You try it again, we’ll come after you again,” Mikulski said emphatically.
But she voiced concern coming from others on Capitol Hill and elsewhere about the Nigerian government’s willingness to act.
“The Nigerian government, led by its President, has been tepid on its response at best,” said Mikulski.
Collins said she would think the Nigerian President “would welcome Special Forces coming in.”
“I don’t think the Nigerian President has the capabilities, obviously, that we have, so I would hope that he would encourage the United States to help him rescue these young citizens of his country, these girls who are being so exploited, kidnapped, taken from their homes. This is horrendous and it requires a global outrage in response to what’s happening,” said Collins.
Under mounting international pressure, Nigeria on Tuesday defended its response to the kidnappings. A senior Nigerian official has told CNN that the government there is in "hot pursuit" of those responsible. Specifically, the official said two special battalions have been devoted to the search and more troops would be involved.
So far, the State Department said that Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan welcomes an offer of U.S. support and said the embassy in Nigeria is ready to create a "coordination cell" to provide intelligence, investigations and hostage negotiation expertise. It would include U.S. military personnel, agency spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.