FLIGHTS over north-eastern Nigeria by the United States (U.S.) surveillance have shown what appeared to be large groups of girls held together in remote locations.
The development is raising hopes among domestic and foreign officials that they are among the group that Boko Haram abducted from a boarding school in April, US and Nigerian officials said.
The surveillance suggested that, at least, some of the 219 schoolgirls still held captive had not been forced into marriage or sex slavery, as had been feared, but were instead being used as bargaining chips for the release of prisoners.
According to a report at the WSJ, the US intelligence matched what the Federal Government said it heard from northern Nigerians who had interacted with the Islamist insurgents that some of Boko Haram’s most famous set of captives were getting special treatment, compared with the hundreds of other girls the group was suspected to have kidnapped.
“Boko Haram appears to have seen the schoolgirls as of higher value, given the global attention paid to their plight,” the officials said.
“In early July, US surveillance flights over North-East spotted a group of 60 to 70 girls held in an open field,” two US defence officials said, adding that “late last month, they spotted a set of roughly 40 girls in a different field.”
“When surveillance flights returned, both sets of girls had been moved,” US intelligence analysts said, adding that “they don’t have enough information to confirm whether the two groups of girls they saw are the same.”
The intelligence analysts stated further that they could not say whether those groups included any of the schoolgirls the sect had held since April, but the US and Nigerian officials said they believed they were the schoolgirls.
“It’s unusual to find a large group of young women like that in an open space,” one US defence official said, adding that “we’re assuming they’re not a rock band of hippies out there camping.”