PENTAGON — One day after being deployed, members of the U.S. Air Force are in Chad, flying a Predator drone to aid in the search for the more than 250 Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram.
The unmanned, unarmed Predator drone now flying from Chad joins the larger, longer range Global Hawk and a manned, specially equipped twin engine turbo prop plane in the skies over Nigeria as the U.S. expands its search for the missing girls.
Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren said U.S. forces were flying multiple missions at a time, looking for any trace of the schoolgirls, kidnapped last month by the militant Islamic group Boko Haram.
“This is now, it’s an air operation. It’s using a mix of manned and unmanned assets as the situation dictates,” he said.
But he said the search remained difficult. “It’s a very large area of terrain. It’s rugged terrain. It’s densely wooded jungle. So it’s a difficult search. It’s hard search,” said the spokesman.
For now, U.S. surveillance efforts are focused on Nigeria’s interior, including the northeastern part of the country, where officials suspect the girls were taken after possibly being split up.
And while none of the U.S. planes or drones are armed, all of them carry a variety of sensors and imaging technology that officials hope will find some trace of the girls.
So far, though, officials here say they have found nothing.