WASHINGTON, May 22 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. Defense Department's addition of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and 80 Air Force troops to U.S. efforts supporting Nigeria's search for over 200 kidnapped girls has turned the mission into an air operation, a Pentagon spokesman said on Thursday.
Spokesman Steve Warren said at a press conference that the UAV system and Air Force personnel were deployed not to Nigeria but to neighboring Chad under an agreement with the Chadian government.
"Because basing the air assets there, closer to the search area, allows the aircraft to spend more time overhead," he said.
The Nigerian government has requested such assistance and, Warren said, this is the third system that we've put into Chad in addition to systems that have been providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, or ISR up until Wednesday.
The coordinated air operation is using a mix of manned and unmanned assets as the situation dictates, he said, adding that there are no plans now for a U.S. military operation on the ground in Nigeria.
It's been five weeks since members of the militant group Boko Haram kidnapped more than 200 girls from the Government Secondary boarding school in the town of Chibok, several hundred kilometers east of the Nigerian capital city Abuja, on the night of April 14.
The Air Force personnel are joining 16 military personnel from U.S. Africa Command who earlier this month joined an interdisciplinary team led by the State Department at the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria.