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How tech is aiding in search of missing Nigerian schoolgirls

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 Screenshot via AFP

The case of hundreds of kidnapped schoolgirls in Nigeria has caused widespread outcry and protests across the African continent, but what are other countries doing to assist?

In a video obtained by AFP, the leader of extremist Islamic group Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, demands the release of comrades currently held within Nigeria's prisons in exchange for the girls. The video appears to show the kidnapped teenagers -- aged 15 - 18 -- garbed in full-length hijab while Shekau insists they have been converted from Christianity to Islam. Some of the girls have managed to escape, but over 200 are believed to still be missing.

As Nigeria begins to accept international help to try and resolve the crisis, what are countries doing to help?

Over in the U.S., American officials announced this week that manned surveillance missions are now underway over Nigeria in hopes of locating the missing girls. As Nigeria's surveillance technology is deemed lacking, the U.S. is also sharing satellite imagery with the country.

It is likely that U.S. technology, employed through manned aerial vehicles, will also be used to intercept communications between members of Boko Haram.

The use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), is also being considered. According to the Washington Post, the U.S. "has not mobilized drones to aid the search but that commanders in Africa are exploring whether to do so." If drones are used, they will be pulled away from three U.S. military outposts in Africa, where they are currently on the hunt for the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army, Joseph Kony.

In total, 27 U.S. members of the FBI and defense and state departments have been assigned to Nigeria to assist. The U.K., France and China already have teams on the ground, and an Israeli counter-terrorism squad is en route to Nigeria.

However, as Nigeria is roughly the size of New England, discovering their whereabouts will not be an easy task.

Read on: BBC | Washington Post

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— By on May 13, 2014, 3:50 AM PST

Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure