The US is flying “manned” intelligence missions over Nigeria to try to track down nearly 300 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram fighters.Washington has also shared “commercial satellite imagery” with the Nigerian military in the hunt for the missing teenagers, a senior US official said.
Experts are examining a new video issued by Boko Haram claiming to show about 130 of the youngsters, who the group claims have converted to Islam.
US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said: “Our intelligence experts are combing through every detail of the video for clues that might help ongoing efforts to secure the release of the girls.
“We have no reason to question its authenticity.”
In the video, the group’s leader Abubakar Shekau said the girls would not be released until all his fighters are freed from prison.
But that proposal has been rejected by the Nigerian government.
Ms Psaki said America’s policy is also “to deny kidnappers the benefits of their criminal acts, including ransoms or concessions.”
She stressed however the Nigerian authorities are “in the lead” in the operation.
More than 300 youngsters were abducted from a school in the northeastern town of Chibok, in Borno state, on April 14.
Fifty-three managed to escape but 276 are still missing.
Nigerian troops are in the Chibok area in large numbers, boosted by teams from across the world, including Britain.
One community leader, too fearful to be identified, told Sky News he wants the girls back whatever it takes.
“Prisoner swap and the girls? To us as parents…there’s nothing the government shouldn’t do to get these innocent girls back,” he said.
Shehu Sani, who has mediated between the government and the militants before, also believes a prisoner swap is the way forward.
He told Sky News the Nigerian authorities should release the hundreds of Boko Haram relatives who have been rounded up, and exchange them for the girls.