WASHINGTON: The United States reduced its surveillance flights to help find more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls abducted by Islamist militants after building a body of intelligence and after other states ramped up support, a US official said.
Nigeria has committed itself to the hunt for the girls, who were kidnapped in April in one of the violent group’s most spectacular attacks, and received help from the United States and other countries, including its neighbors.
The senior US defence official told Reuters that the US intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance flights, first announced in May, were now flying at an “intermittent” rate.
The official said overall intelligence-gathering had not diminished, and noted additional operations by Britain and France.
“We had substantial initial coverage for the baseline and we’ve moved into a maintenance mode,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The official declined to say how long the period of heightened initial US coverage lasted. Asked whether it was just a week or two, the official said: “No. We were ... building this baseline for a good period of time.”
The Pentagon had said on Thursday that there were “around the clock” intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) operations in support of Nigeria’s search. US military personnel are in Abuja helping coordinate the effort.
The United States also sent about 80 US military personnel to Chad in May to support the surveillance operation. Chad lies to the northeast of Nigeria, bordering the area in which Boko Haram operates.
In the last month US officials have played down expectations about a swift rescue of the girls and stressed the limitations of intelligence gleaned from surveillance flights.
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