US Deploys Drones in Search for Kidnapped Nigerian Girls

Church rally for kidnapped Nigerian girls, Lagos

White House officials confirmed that reconnaissance drones are now patrolling an area the size of West Virginia in a search for nearly 300 kidnapped schoolgirls

The United States has deployed drones to Nigeria to help search for nearly 300 schoolgirls kidnapped by militant group Boko Haram, White House officials confirmed on Wednesday.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said during a press conference that “unmanned, unarmed” aircraft had joined reconnaissance flights over a swathe of Nigeria where Boko Haram is believed to be holding the girls hostage. Carney cautioned that the area of greatest suspicion still covered an expanse of land “along the size of West Virginia.”

The announcement lands as two U.S. lawmakers urged the use of force to rescue the Nigerian girls. “I certainly would send in U.S. troops to rescue them,” Senator John McCain said to the Daily Beast Tuesday.

Carney, however, said that U.S. counterterrorism experts dispatched to Nigeria would limit their activity to an “advisory capacity,” focused on finding the girls.

Recent international attention and internal protests have ratcheted up pressure on Nigeria’s government to rescue the girls and crack down on Boko Haram’s insurgents. Over the last five years, Boko Haram has waged a campaign of bombings, massacres and kidnappings in northern Nigeria that has claimed an estimated 1,000 lives.