US surveillance aircraft deployed to search for Nigerian girls taken by Boko Haram
The United States said it is flying "manned" missions over Nigeria in search of over 200 abducted schoolgirls, after the Lagos government dismissed a prisoner-swap offer from the Boko Haram kidnappers.
The US is also sharing commercial satellite imagery with the Nigerian government, officials said.
It comes after militants released a video of about 130 girls, saying they could be swapped for jailed fighters.
"We have shared commercial satellite imagery with the Nigerians and are flying manned ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) assets over Nigeria with the government\’s permission," a senior administration official told AFP news agency on Monday, asking not to be named.
It was not immediately clear what kinds of aircraft were being deployed, nor where they had come from.
"Our intelligence experts are combing through every detail of the video for clues that might help ongoing efforts to secure the release of the girls," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said earlier on Monday.
"We have no reason to question its authenticity," she added of the video.
A 30-strong US team arrived on the ground last week in Nigeria to help growing efforts to find the girls aged between 16 to 18, snatched from their boarding school in the northeast of the country on April 14.
The White House said the team included five State Department officials, two strategic communications experts, a civilian security expert and a regional medical support officer.
Also on the manifest are 10 Defense Department planners already in Nigeria, seven extra military advisors from US Africa Command and four FBI officials expert in hostage negotiations.
"We are talking about helping the Nigerian government search an area that is roughly the size of New England," White House spokesman Jay Carney said, referring to the region in the US northeast.
Boko Haram has released a new video claiming to show the missing Nigerian schoolgirls who were abducted last month, alleging they had converted to Islam and would not be released until all of its prisoners held by Nigeria were freed.
The group\’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, said they would be held until all imprisoned militants had been freed.
He said the girls had converted to Islam. The video, released on Monday, claims to show them praying.
On the video, obtained by the AFP news agency on Monday, Abubakar Shekau, the group\’s leader, is shown speaking on for 17 minutes before showing what he said were about 130 of the girls, wearing the full-length hijab and praying in an undisclosed rural location.
Two girls say they were Christian and have converted to Islam, while the other says she is Muslim.
The UK, the US, France and China already have teams helping on the ground in Nigeria. An Israeli counter-terrorism team is also on its way.
Boko Haram abducted more than 200 girls from northern Nigeria on 14 April and threatened to sell them.
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