WASHINGTON — In response to an ongoing abduction crisis, the U.S. military has deployed drones to Nigeria, the Defense Department revealed Wednesday.
Last month, more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls were kidnapped from their school by Boko Haram, an Islamic militant group. Designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department last year, the group has reportedly suggested that it would release the girls if the Nigerian government releases imprisoned militants. Nigerian and U.S. officials are worried that the girls might be sold to human traffickers or killed.
“I can confirm that we are using both manned and unmanned aerial [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] assets to assist in the search for the kidnapped girls,” Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren told reporters.
Warren would not say specifically what types of drones are being used or how many of them have been deployed, but he did point out that they are they are only conducting surveillance missions and are not intended to for combat purposes.
“Every one of them is unarmed. These are strictly for the purposes of ISR,” Warren said.
Warren would not say where the drones are based.
On Tuesday, the Pentagon acknowledged that manned aircraft were being used to search for the girls, but did not say whether drones were involved.
The intelligence information obtained from the surveillance aircraft is being fed to an interagency U.S. advisory team on the ground at the U.S. Embassy in Abuja. The U.S. team, which includes a contingent of military experts from U.S. Africa Command and the country team in Nigeria, is analyzing the information and providing advice to the Nigerian forces who are looking for the girls, Warren said.
The Pentagon has said it has no intention of deploying U.S. special operations forces to help rescue the girls. The American military personnel are simply there to advise and assist the Nigerians with communications, logistics, and intelligence, according to officials.