Newspaper article International New York Times

U.S. Sends Troops to Aid Hunt for Schoolgirls ; Personnel Will Support Airborne Surveillance Drones Based in Chad

Newspaper article International New York Times

U.S. Sends Troops to Aid Hunt for Schoolgirls ; Personnel Will Support Airborne Surveillance Drones Based in Chad

Article excerpt

The United States has sent 80 troops to Chad to support efforts in neighboring Nigeria to help find the schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram extremists.

The United States has sent 80 troops to Chad in Central Africa to support a growing international effort in neighboring Nigeria to help find and rescue the schoolgirls who were abducted by an Islamist extremist group last month, the White House said.

The American military personnel are not ground troops. They are mostly Air Force crew members, maintenance specialists and security officers for unarmed Predator surveillance drones that will help search for the more than 260 Nigerian girls seized by the group, Boko Haram.

"These personnel will support the operation of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft for missions over northern Nigeria and the surrounding area," the White House said Wednesday in a statement formally notifying Congress about the deployment. A United States military spokesman said Thursday that the personnel had already begun their mission, The Associated Press reported.

For the past 10 days, the United States military has been flying manned and unmanned surveillance aircraft over heavily forested regions in northeastern Nigeria, where intelligence officials say the captors are hiding the girls.

But the aircraft have had to fly hundreds or even thousands of miles from Italy or elsewhere in Africa to reach the search area, limiting the time they can spend over the region. By contrast, the Predators that will join these aircraft will operate from a large air base in N'Djamena, the Chadian capital, near the search area across the border. France, the former colonial power in Chad, has long stationed fighter jets and other aircraft at the base.

"The force will remain in Chad until its support in resolving the kidnapping situation is no longer required," the White House statement said.

The deployment to Chad augments a team of about 30 specialists from the State Department, the F.B.I. and the Pentagon who have been sent to Nigeria to advise officials there. About half are military personnel with medical, intelligence, counterterrorism and communications skills. …

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