A US reconnaissance plane has been deployed as part of multinational search efforts for 200 Nigerian schoolgirls. Nigeria has rejected an offer by Boko Haram to return the girls in a prisoner exchange.
More international personnel were expected to arrive in Nigeria on Tuesday to aid the massive search for the schoolgirls abducted by the Islamist group Boko Haram. So far, Britain, France and the US have deployed experts to the area. In its latest effort, Washington also confirmed that it had launched a search from the air.
"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," a US official said late Monday.
They were also in the process of analyzing a video released by Boko Haram (pictured), which shows some 130 girls wearing gray veils and chanting verses from the Koran against the backdrop of a forest. With the girls' whereabouts previously unknown, the footage could provide vital clues as to their location.
"We have no reason to question its authenticity," US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
"Our intelligence experts are combing through every detail of the video for clues that might help ongoing efforts to secure the release of these girls," she added.
A 30-strong team from the US arrived last week in Nigeria, to help in the search for the girls, who are aged between 16 and 18. Almost 200 girls were snatched from their boarding school in the northeast of the country on April 14. The act sparked public outrage, including a prominent Twitter campaign, with France subsequently offering to host a summit to discuss the Boko Haram threat.
Britain and France have also deployed experts to Nigeria, with London saying its aim, in addition to finding the girls, was to assist in the defeat of the Boko Haram network as a whole. China, Israel and Spain have all offered help of their own.
The Nigerian government on Monday said it would not agree to a deal proposed by Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau in the video, offering the girls' safe return only in exchange for captured fighters.
Boko Haram's violent campaign to impose a strict brand of Shariah law on Nigeria has killed more than 1,500 people this year alone. Thousands more have died since the group's campaign of violence erupted in 2009.