Abuja: A Nigerian government official said "all options are open" in efforts to rescue almost 300 abducted schoolgirls from their captors as US reconnaissance aircraft started flying over this West African country in a search effort.
Boko Haram, the militant group that kidnapped the girls last month from a school in Borno state, had released a video yesterday purporting to show some of the girls. A civic leader said representatives of the missing girls` families were set to view the video as a group later today to see if some of the girls can be identified.
According to a senior defense official in Washington, the US is using a manned MC-12 surveillance aircraft, which is based in Niger, to conduct missions in Nigeria. In addition to the turboprop model which has seen heavy use in Afghanistan, US officials are also considering the use of drones. At this point the surveillance missions are not continuous.
Gen David Rodriguez, head of US Africa Command, was in Abuja today, meeting with leaders at the US Embassy, the defense official said. The official was not authorised to discuss the matter publicly, so spoke on condition of anonymity.
Boko Haram`s leader, who appears separately from the girls, says in the new video, "I swear to almighty Allah, you will not see them again until you release our brothers that you have captured." He has previously threatened to sell the girls into slavery.
Hussein Monguno, an official with a civic group called the Borno Yobe People`s Forum, said representatives of the families of the missing girls had been invited to the Borno governor`s residence in the Nigerian capital of Abuja to view the latest Boko Haram video. The government is likely to communicate the next course of action if some family representatives "verify" that their children appear in the video, he said by phone from Maiduguri, the Borno capital.
Nigeria`s government initially suggested there would be no negotiations with Boko Haram, but it appears that stance may be relaxed.
Mike Omeri, the director of the government`s information agency, said the government will "use whatever kind of action" it takes to free the girls. He also warned that a military operation, with foreign help, was possible.