WASHINGTON - In a rare venture into foreign policy, Michelle Obama on Saturday condemned the abduction of more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls by terrorists and said that she and her husband had been personally touched by what she called an "unconscionable" act.
"In these girls, Barack and I see our own daughters," the first lady said in the weekly radio address that is normally delivered by her husband. "We see their hopes, their dreams - and we can only imagine the anguish their parents are feeling right now."
Michelle Obama 'outraged' over Nigeria kidnappings
Ahead of Mother's Day in the US, first lady Michelle Obama, a mother of two girls, says she's "outraged" over the kidnapping of more than 200 Nigerian girls.
Boko Haram, the Nigerian terrorist network, has claimed responsibility for abducting 276 girls from a school last month. The taking of the girls and concern about their fate has prompted nations around the world to offer help to the Nigerian government of President Goodluck Jonathan.
Barack Obama said last week that he had ordered a team of military intelligence specialists and hostage negotiators to Nigeria to help in the search.
The kidnapping of the girls has prompted a viral Internet campaign on their behalf, with people around the world taking to Twitter and other social media to demand the return of the girls to their families. The first lady posted a somber-looking picture of herself on Twitter, holding a piece of paper with "#BringBackOurGirls" written on it.
In the radio address, she said she wanted to use Mother's Day to draw even more attention to the kidnappings.
"Like millions of people across the globe, my husband and I are outraged and heartbroken over the kidnapping of more than 200 Nigerian girls from their school dormitory in the middle of the night," she said.
"This unconscionable act was committed by a terrorist group determined to keep these girls from getting an education - grown men attempting to snuff out the aspirations of young girls."
Michelle Obama has typically stayed away from foreign policy issues and has focused most of her official activities as first lady on issues such as reducing childhood obesity and programs to help support members of the armed services and their families.
She recently toured China without her husband and used the trip to offer some political messages about free expression and minority rights.
The first lady said Saturday that the abduction of the girls in Nigeria was not an isolated case of terrorism but part of a pattern of abuse directed at girls across the globe.
"It's a story we see every day as girls around the world risk their lives to pursue their ambitions," she said, referring to the case of Malala Yousafzai, a young girl in Pakistan who became an advocate for educating women and was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman on a school bus. Yousafzai survived the gunshot and continues to advocate the education of girls around the world.
The First Lady said the courage of Yousafzai should serve as a "call to action" for Americans to value a quality education in the United States, and to make sure that their children do not slack off or drop out.
She said she hoped the captured Nigerian schoolchildren would inspire Americans to stand up for girls "not just in times of tragedy or crisis, but for the long haul."
"Let us all pray for their safe return," Mrs Obama said.
"Let us hold their families in our hearts during this very difficult time and let us show just a fraction of their courage in fighting to give every girl on this planet the education that is her birthright."