LAGOS: 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.
“We have shared commercial satellite imagery with the Nigerians and are flying manned ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] assets over Nigeria with the govern–ment’s permission,” a senior US administration official said on Monday.
The official declined to be named, and it was not imme–diately clear what kind of aircraft were being deployed, nor where they were based.
Boko Haram’s leader said in a new video obtained by Agence France-Presse on Monday that the abducted schoolgirls would only be released if the go–vernment freed militant figh–ters from custody.
Abubakar Shekau made the claim in a 27-minute video, which apparently showed about 130 of the girls who were kidnapped from their school in the remote northeastern town of Chibok nearly a month ago.
The militant leader said the girls in the video had converted to Islam and all were shown in Muslim dress, reciting the first chapter of the Koran and praying at an undisclosed location.
Asked if the government would reject Shekau’s suggestion, Interior Minister Abba Moro told Agence France-Presse: “Of course.”
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said US intelligence experts were “combing through every detail of the video for clues that might help ongoing efforts to secure the release of the girls.”
Their disappearance has triggered global outrage, in part due to a social media campaign that has won the support of high-profile figures including US First Lady Michelle Obama and Pope Francis.