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September 24, 2017

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US utilizing manned missions in search for abducted Nigeria girls

LAGOS/ABUJA--Manned U.S. aircraft were in the skies above Nigeria on Tuesday in the hunt for more than 200 missing schoolgirls, almost a month after they were kidnapped by Islamist militants.

The United States said manned ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) aircraft were being flown and it had also shared commercial satellite imagery as part of the rescue effort.

Boko Haram militants abducted 276 girls from the remote northeastern town of Chibok in Borno state on April 14. Some 223 are still missing and on Monday the militants released a new video purporting to show some of them.

With electricity supply intermittent in Chibok, efforts were underway for the missing girls' parents to identify their daughters in the video, in which Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau claimed they had converted to Islam.

The coordinator of the Bring Back Our Girls campaign, which has helped drive international pressure for action through social media and global street protests, said three parents had seen their daughters on screen.

"Three parents have identified their daughters in the video," Hadiza Bala Usman told AFP from the Nigerian capital Abuja.

"(Borno) Governor (Kashim) Shettima has now organised a screening in (the state capital) Maiduguri with audio and is bringing parents from Chibok to try to identify more girls."

Nigeria's President Requests Extension to State of Emergency

Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday asked the country's parliament for a six-month extension to the state of emergency in the three northeastern states riven by Islamist militant violence.

"I most respectfully request the distinguished senators to consider and approve by resolution an extension of the proclamation of the state of emergency in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states by a further term of six months from the date of expiration of the current time," Jonathan wrote in a letter seen by AFP.

Jonathan's request, which was widely expected, came on the eve of the first anniversary of the declaration of a six-month state of emergency designed to curb the threat posed by Boko Haram fighters.

The special measures approved on May 14, 2013, saw a surge of troops into the region and efforts to disrupt planning of attacks such as cutting the mobile phone networks.

The initiatives appeared at first to have been successful, as the militants were pushed out of urban centers.

But attacks continued and even escalated in hard-to-reach rural areas, particularly in Borno state in border regions, with Boko Haram apparently able to strike at will.

Lawmakers unanimously approved a request to extend the state of emergency by a further six months on Nov. 7 last year after Jonathan said the threat had not been contained.

Since then, Boko Haram attacks have increased and largely focused on civilians rather than previous targets such as government, police and military installations.

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