US ‘manned missions’ to seek abducted Nigeria girls

May 14, 2014 - 4:28:31 am

LAGOS: Manned US aircraft were in the skies above Nigeria yesterday in the hunt for more than 200 missing schoolgirls, almost a month after they were kidnapped by Islamist militants. 

The United States said manned ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) aircraft were being flown and it had also shared commercial satellite imagery as part of the rescue effort. 

Boko Haram militants abducted 276 girls from the remote northeastern town of Chibok in Borno state on April 14. Some 223 are still missing and on Monday the militants released a new video purporting to show some of them. 

With electricity supply intermittent in Chibok, efforts were underway for the missing girls’ parents to identify their daughters in the video, in which Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau claimed they had converted to Islam. 

The co-ordinator of the Bring Back Our Girls campaign, which has helped drive international pressure for action through social media and global street protests, said three parents had seen their daughters on screen. 

“Three parents have identified their daughters in the video,” Hadiza Bala Usman told AFP from the Nigerian capital Abuja. 

“(Borno) Governor (Kashim) Shettima has now organised a screening in (the state capital) Maiduguri with audio and is bringing parents from Chibok to try to identify more girls.” 

The latest video showed about 130 teenagers, all in Muslim dress and reciting the first chapter of the Koran and praying in an undisclosed rural location. 

It was not clear where or when the footage was shot, although Shekau does refer to suggestions made in the last week by the United Nations that Boko Haram may have committed a crime against humanity by abducting the girls. 

Nigeria’s government said on Monday evening that it was studying the video in which the militant leader appears to indicate that he is prepared to free the girls in exchange for the release of Boko Haram fighters held in prison.