The U.S. sent 80 troops to Chad to help international efforts to rescue more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped last month by Islamist militants, the White House said.
The soldiers aren’t ground troops. They “will support the operation of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft for missions over northern Nigeria and the surrounding area,” President Barack Obama said yesterday in a letter to Congress. They will operate unarmed Predator drones, according to a U.S. defense official, who asked not to be identified discussing operational details.
The schoolgirls’ kidnapping in Chibok in the northeastern state of Borno on the border with Chad on April 14 sparked international calls for their rescue. Countries including the U.S., U.K., France and Israel are helping the authorities with intelligence and reconnaissance to hunt for them.
Obama’s announcement came as the Islamist militant group Boko Haram intensified its war in Nigeria with two bombings in the central city of Jos and attacks on northeastern villages that left at least 155 people dead in two days.
Gunmen have killed about 37 people in attacks in the past two days on three villages in Borno, said Mohammed Gava, a local security official. Twin explosions in the business district of Jos on May 20 killed at least 118 people and wounded 65, National Emergency Management Agency spokesman Ezekiel Manzo said by phone from Abuja, the capital.
While no group claimed responsibility for the Jos attack, the Islamist group Boko Haram said it detonated bombs in Abuja on April 14 and May 1 that left about 90 dead, and kidnapped the schoolgirls.
The battle between Boko Haram and the Nigerian security forces has killed at least 2,000 people this year, Amnesty International said May 9. The group, whose name means “western education is a sin” in the local Hausa language, says it’s fighting to impose Islamic law in Africa’s biggest oil producer.
Nigerian lawmakers have approved a six-month extension of a yearlong emergency rule in three northeastern states worst hit by Boko Haram’s insurgency, and President Goodluck Jonathan has ordered the deployment of additional troops there.