The United States has deployed manned surveillance aircraft over Nigeria to find more than 200 girls kidnapped from Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, Borno by Boko Haram a month ago, Reuters reports.
“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,” the official said.
The types of aircraft deployed are not revealed, but the US has sophisticated planes that can listen into a wide range of mobile phone and telecommunications traffic, a BBC reporter in Washington said.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told a news briefing on Monday that the US teams on the ground “are digging in on the search and coordinating closely with the Nigerian government as well as international partners and allies.”
At the moment, 30 US experts – members of the FBI and defence and state departments – are in Nigeria helping with the search.
President Goodluck Jonathan accepted the offer of the US to assist Nigerian troops in rescuing the missing teenagers last week.
Two US officials who requested anonymity disclosed that the US was also considering deploying unmanned, drone aircraft to aid the search operation.
This comes after the Islamist sect released a video that allegedly shows 130 abducted girls dressed in full-length hijabs and reciting the first chapter of the Qur’an.
Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau claims in the video that majority of the girls have converted to Islam and those who have not could be exchanged for the sect’s detained members.
The State Security Service (SSS), however, has expressed doubts as to whether the man in the video is indeed Shekau. The SSS spokesperson Marilyn Ogar said Shekau was shot dead by the military months ago.
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