RAF planes to look for missing Chibok schoolgirls

Published 21 August 2014  |  
Footage of the kidnapped schoolgirls, dressed in the full Muslim hijab, released by Boko Haram. Most of the girls are from Christian families.

Three RAF planes are being deployed to Nigeria to aid the search for the missing schoolgirls from Chibok village, The Times reports.

Specially fitted with surveillance equipment, the Tornado GR4 jets will fly over the north-eastern regions of the country, which is where Boko Haram – the group responsible for the abductions – is most active.

According to The Times, a source from Whitehall said the jets "will be helping to look for the kidnapped schoolgirls" as part of their reconnaissance mission, which will also track the movements of Boko Haram militants.

British Prime Minister David Cameron branded the kidnapping an "act of pure evil" and promised to offer assistance in the rescue effort. "We stand ready to do anything more that the Nigerians would want," he said in May.

"There are extreme Islamists around our world who are against education, against progress, against equality and we will fight them and take them wherever they are."

Cameron and US President Barack Obama confirmed in the weeks following the abduction that specialist counter-terrorism and intelligence teams had been sent to Nigeria to assist local authorities. But more than four months later, 219 of the girls are still missing.

More than 270 girls were kidnapped from their school in Chibok, Borno state on April 14, and their plight soon gained international attention. It is feared that many may have been sold into slavery, or forced into early marriage.

Raffaello Pantucci, senior research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, told The Times that the deployment of RAF planes would be a positive move given the "substantial progress" Boko Haram is making across Nigeria.

"They have been quite active and I think this is worrying people," he said.

An expert on the situation in Nigeria recently told Christian Today that the "possible dangers" for the region as a whole "may have been underestimated" until now.

Team leader for Africa and the Middle East at Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Dr Khataza Gondwe, said that the insurgency must now be "contained" as Boko Haram continues to spread from its original base in northern Nigeria and has begun recruiting in neighbouring Cameroon, Niger and Chad.

The group, officially designated a foreign terrorist organisation by the US, is thought to be responsible for the deaths of 13,000 people since it became active in 2009.

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