UK offers spy plane to Nigeria to trace abducted schoolgirls

Britain today offered Nigeria a spy plane and military expertise to help with the search for over 200 schoolgirls abducted by a "very vicious" Islamist militant group a month ago, joining similar efforts by the US, France and China.

PTI| Updated: May 14, 2014, 22:50 PM IST

London: Britain today offered Nigeria a spy plane and military expertise to help with the search for over 200 schoolgirls abducted by a "very vicious" Islamist militant group a month ago, joining similar efforts by the US, France and China.

"They do face a very vicious terrorist organisation in terms of Boko Haram, they are investing in and training their armed forces and counter-terrorism abilities," Prime Minister David Cameron told MPs.

"We have worked with them on that and we are willing to do more work with them on that, particularly if we can make sure that proper processes are in place for dealing with human rights areas.

"But we should help across a broad range of areas, not just counter-terrorism, surveillance and helping them find these people, but also working with the global fund promoted by the former prime minister [Gordon Brown]... In terms of protecting more schools," he said.

Cameron was responding during Prime Minister`s Questions to Labour MP Tom Clarke, who said the Nigerian government had "not lifted a finger to protect its own citizens in the north".

But Cameron insisted the Nigerian authorities were trying to tackle Boko Haram.
The Military of Defence confirmed the surveillance aircraft offered to Nigeria was a RAF Sentinel R1 spy plane.

It said Cameron`s offer of the surveillance plane would include an intelligence team in Abuja to help analyse information about the girls` whereabouts.

The schoolgirls were taken by Islamist militants Boko Haram on April 14.

Experts from the UK have already been sent to help with the search for the 200-plus schoolgirls, who were taken from their boarding school in the town of Chibok in north-eastern Nigeria.
The US has already sent surveillance assistance and has teams helping on the ground in Nigeria.
More than 270 girls were snatched by militants from their boarding school in Chibok, north-eastern Nigeria, on April 14. Some managed to escape, but most were taken into the remote Sambisa forest.

Boko Haram on Monday released a 27-minute video, showing about 130 girls in Muslim dress and reading from the Quran. Most of the seized girls are Christians. Two were singled out to tell the camera they had converted to Islam.

In the video, the Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, said the girls could be released in exchange for jailed militants.

Boko Haram, whose name means "Western education is forbidden", had previously said the girls should not have been at school and should get married instead. The militants have been engaged in a violent campaign against the Nigerian government since 2009.