Nigeria ‘open’ to Boko Haram negotiation over girls

US deploys surveillance aircraft to find more than 200 abducted schoolgirls

Kidnapped schoolgirls are seen at an unknown location in this still image taken from an undated video released by Nigerian Islamist rebel group Boko Haram. The leader of the Nigerian Islamist rebel group Boko Haram has offered to release more than 200 schoolgirls abducted by his fighters last month in exchange for prisoners, according to a video seen on YouTube. Photograph: Reuters

Kidnapped schoolgirls are seen at an unknown location in this still image taken from an undated video released by Nigerian Islamist rebel group Boko Haram. The leader of the Nigerian Islamist rebel group Boko Haram has offered to release more than 200 schoolgirls abducted by his fighters last month in exchange for prisoners, according to a video seen on YouTube. Photograph: Reuters

Tue, May 13, 2014, 18:12

Nigeria’s government said today the “window of negotiation” is open with Boko Haram rebels who abducted more than 200 girls a month ago from their school in the northeast of the country.

“The window of negotiation is still open. The government had set up a committee to negotiate with Boko Haram so if they have any negotiation to make it should be channelled through the committee,“ minister of special duties Tanimu Turaki said. Mr Turaki heads up the negotiation committee.

Earlier the United States said it has deployed manned surveillance aircraft over Nigeria and is sharing satellite imagery with the Nigerian government to find the girls abducted by Islamist insurgents, a senior Obama administration official said.

Washington has sent military, law-enforcement and development experts to Nigeria to help search for the missing girls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram militants from a secondary school in Chibok in remote northeastern Nigeria on April 14.

“We have shared commercial satellite imagery with the Nigerians and are flying manned ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) assets over Nigeria with the government’s permission,” the US official said.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told a news briefing yesterday that the US was providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnassance support. She said US teams on the ground “are digging in on the search and coordinating closely with the Nigerian government as well as international partners and allies.”

Two US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States was also considering deploying unmanned, drone aircraft to aid the search.

One of the US officials said the United States had been carrying out the manned surveillance flights “for a few days” but did not elaborate.

Last week, US Undersecretary for Africa Linda Thomas-Greenfield said in an interview that Nigeria had requested surveillance and intelligence from the United States. .

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has said he believes the girls are still in Nigeria.

The leader of Boko Haram has offered to release them in exchange for members of its group being detained, according to a video posted on YouTube yesterday.

Reuters