The United States Africa Command has sent 16 military personnel to join the search for the missing Nigerian schoolgirls. They have joined an interdisciplinary team comprised of experts in communications, logistics, civil affairs, operations and intelligence. The team is led from the US Embassy in the Nigerian capital Abuja.
Army Colonel Steve Warren gave a statement from the Pentagon saying “Their role is to assess the situation, advise and assist the Nigerian government in their efforts to respond to this crisis situation, and find the young women kidnapped by Boko Haram.”
The news came yesterday as US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ruled out sending US special forces in any projected rescue attempt. He said “there's no intention at this point to be putting any American boots on the ground.”
Today US surveillance aircraft could be seen flying over the vast territories in the north of Nigeria where the captives might be being held by Boko Haram. A 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.”
British teams have also been deployed in the search. The Prime Minister of Great Britain David Cameron called Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan “to offer anything that would be helpful” including troops, should they be requested, although he said that would be unlikely. He added “I said to President Jonathan where we can help, please ask, and we will see what we can do.”
Speaking on BBC One’s The Andrew Marr show, Cameron took the opportunity to highlight the global nature of Islamic extremism.
“This is not just a problem in Nigeria," he said. "We're seeing this really violent extreme Islamism – we see problems in Pakistan, we see problems in other parts of Africa, problems in the Middle East. Also, let's be frank, here in the UK there is still too much support for extremism that we have to tackle, whether it's in schools or colleges or universities or wherever."
Cameron’s last remark was in reference to the still unfolding Islamist bid to takeover British schools that has led to ongoing investigations in five cities across the UK. Revelations have just come to light of similar attempts taking place in Germany.
The USA and Britain are not the only countries offering assistance. France, China and Canada also offered support and an Israeli counterterrorism team is on its way.
It is known that the girls are still alive because Boko Haram released a video of them being ‘paraded’ in front of the camera and forced to recite chapters of the Qu’ran. Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram, boasted that the girls had converted to Islam, claiming “These girls have become Muslims. They're Muslims.”
Relatives and friends recognized some of the girls from the video. One father, who chose to remain anonymous for safety reasons, said that he identified his daughter, aged 18, and her friend.