U.S. deploys military to help search for Nigerian girls

WASHINGTON Wed May 21, 2014 5:19pm EDT

Related Topics

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States has deployed about 80 military personnel to Chad in its effort to help find and return more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by Islamist militant group Boko Haram, President Barack Obama told Congress on Wednesday.

"These personnel will support the operation of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft for missions over northern Nigeria and the surrounding area," Obama said in a letter to congressional leaders.

The forces are to remain in Chad until they are no longer

needed, Obama added.

A senior Obama administration official said the military personnel were deployed to Chad with the consent of that government. Some will maintain the unmanned aircraft involved in the mission and the rest will provide security for the group.

The girls were taken in April from a boarding school close to Nigeria's border with Cameroon, Niger and Chad in a sparsely populated region. Their whereabouts are unknown.

The kidnappings have generated an outpouring of concern from the United States, with Obama's wife, Michelle, speaking out about the crisis. The president himself has resisted some calls from Republicans in Congress to send special forces into Nigeria to search for the girls.

U.S. surveillance aircraft have been flying over remote areas of northeast Nigeria for two weeks, and the Pentagon struck an agreement last weekend to allow it to share intelligence directly with the Nigerian government.

The U.S. government has also sent officials from the State Department and the FBI to Nigeria to help in the search.

Two U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the forces were positioned in Chad to allow the surveillance aircraft more time above the search areas before refueling.

One of the officials said the flights were being carried out by a Predator drone and that the U.S. forces would be responsible for launch and recovery of the aircraft, as well as force protection.

The Predator flights were in addition to unmanned surveillance flights already being carried out by Global Hawk aircraft, the official said.

It was not immediately clear how many Global Hawk drones the U.S. military was using to carry out the search.

The composition of America's surveillance aircraft searching for the girls has changed over time and previously included manned aircraft as well. The Pentagon said on Tuesday the manned surveillance aircraft required maintenance and there were no manned flights at the moment.

(Reporting by Roberta Rampton, Phil Stewart and Steve Holland; Editing by Peter Cooney and Andre Grenon)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (3)
carlmartel wrote:
The US may want to look for the “two Nigerian divisions” that were allegedly sent to look for the girls. Two divisions would normally be 30,000 to 35,000 troops, but Ukraine’s military said they had only 6,000 effectives out of 41,000 on paper, so Nigeria’s forces may be similarly smaller than expected. The corruption levels may be about the same. 35,000 monthly paychecks for 5,000 (?) troops give big bank accounts for generals. It also allows the sale of unneeded weapons and munitions to reduce bookkeeping tasks while increasing each general’s retirement fund. The people whose duty is to care about the crimes want to line their pockets, and those who do care about the girls lack the resources to act.

May 21, 2014 6:25pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Extraomnes wrote:
If any of the abducted girls are harmed, no effort should be spared in a global effort to round up every member of Boko Haram & eliminate them completely. Their crimes against humanity are simply unspeakable.
Once they are dealt with, the global community should feel a moral obligation to call the Nigerian officials to task for failing to protect so many innocent & largely defenseless citizens & consistently (until very recently) refusing outside help. The reasons are self evident. The more deeply entrenched the corruption; the fewer eyes you want from the outside world.

May 21, 2014 8:13pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
MonitorLizard wrote:
Perhaps Obama should take up residency, say, a month at a time in these countries. He surely does not have enough time or taxpayer money to take care of Americans. And Africa will always be a corrupt country.

May 22, 2014 8:46am EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.