US general in Nigeria to aid search for schoolgirls

May 13, 2014 - 6:26:43 pm

WASHINGTON: The commander of US forces in Africa has flown to Nigeria to discuss how Washington can help the government in Abuja trace more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by Islamist militants.

A defense official told AFP on Tuesday that General David Rodriguez, head of US Africa Command, "is discussing US assistance for the search as well as overall cooperation."

The four-star general arrived om Monday for talks with his Nigerian counterparts and also was due to meet US diplomats and military officers, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The trip was scheduled prior to the crisis and Rodriguez also plans to discuss the US military's longer-term relations with Nigerian forces, officials said.

Prior to the kidnapping, Nigeria showed little interest in large-scale cooperation with the US military. Washington has been anxious over what it sees as heavy-handed tactics by the country's troops.

The US general's visit came after the United States confirmed it was flying manned aircraft over Nigeria and sharing commercial satellite imagery to help with the hunt for the kidnapped girls.

Boko Haram extremists abducted 276 girls from the remote northeastern town of Chibok in Borno state on April 14, and some 223 are still missing.

The militants on Monday released a new video purporting to show some of the girls.

US intelligence experts are "combing through every detail of the video for clues," a State Department spokeswoman said on Monday.

British, French and Israeli specialists are also providing assistance to Nigeria, which has been accused of responding too slowly to the kidnapping and even of ignoring a forewarning that it was imminent. (AFP)