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UK offers help in Nigeria search

British surveillance aircraft and a military team have been offered to the Nigerian government to assist in the search for more than 200 schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram militants.

David Cameron said the kidnapping of the girls from their school was an act of "pure evil" as he updated MPs on the support being offered to the Nigerian authorities.

He told the Commons: "Today I can announce we have offered Nigeria further assistance in terms of surveillance aircraft, a military team to embed with the Nigerian army in their HQ and a team to work with US experts to analyse information on the girls' location."

He added: "This was an act of pure evil, the world is coming together not just to condemn it but to do everything we can to help the Nigerians find these young girls."

At Prime Minister's Questions Mr Cameron said he would support the efforts of his predecessor Gordon Brown, the UN's special envoy for education, in setting up a fund to protect schools.

He insisted the Nigerian authorities were making efforts to tackle Boko Haram as Labour MP Tom Clarke said the Abuja government "has not lifted a finger to protect its own citizens in the north".

Mr Cameron told him: "They do face a very vicious terrorist organisation in terms of Boko Haram, they are investing in and training their armed forces and counter-terrorism abilities.

"We have worked with them on that and we are willing to do more work with them on that, particularly if we can make sure that proper processes are in place for dealing with human rights areas.

"But we should help across a broad range of areas, not just counter-terrorism, surveillance and helping them find these people, but also working with the global fund promoted by the former prime minister ... in terms of protecting more schools."

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said the aircraft offered to the Nigerian authorities to assist in the search is a Sentinel spy plane, which has a crew of five.

The US has already provided surveillance assistance, and Mr Cameron's offer of help would include an intelligence team in Abuja to help analyse information about the girls' location.

The proposed military team embedded within the army HQ would act as a liaison between the intelligence cell and Nigerian officers, the MoD said.

It is understood that any UK military personnel sent to Nigeria to help with planning, logistics and analysis are likely to number in single figures and will not get involved in operations on the ground.

Discussions are still under way with the Nigerian authorities about what support they would like, and exact details of any deployments will not be announced until those talks have concluded.


From Belfast Telegraph