The US military is reportedly conducting manned surveillance flights over Nigeria to help support the local government in the search of the schoolgirls kidnapped by terrorist group Boko Haram.
An unnamed senior US official said: "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."
Two unidentified US officials were quoted by Reuters as saying that the Obama administration is also considering deployment of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) to support the search mission, but refused to disclose the aircraft type.
The information comes after Boko Haram released a video of about 130 of the abducted girls, saying they would be released if the Nigerian Government frees the group’s fighters from its custody.
However, Nigerian Interior Minister Abba Moro said no such exchange would take place, contradicting the Nigerian Government’s statement that ‘all options’ for the girls’ release were being considered, as reported by BBC News.
Meanwhile, US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said the footage is being examined for any vital clues that may help in finding the location of girls.
"Our intelligence experts are combing through every detail of the video for clues that might help ongoing efforts to secure the release of the girls," Psaki said.
The US has already dispatched a 30-member expert team to the West African country to help the government locate and free more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram from the Government Secondary boarding school in the north-east state of Chibok, last month.
Led by the State Department at the US Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria, the interdisciplinary team includes staff officers and personnel from the embassy’s Office of Security Cooperation, as well as the soldiers from the US Africa Command (AFRICOM).