U.S. deploys 80 troops to Chad in Nigerian schoolgirls hunt

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama says the U.S. has deployed 80 military personnel to Chad to help locate the more than 200 girls kidnapped in Nigeria.

Obama has sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner and to the Senate notifying lawmakers about the steps underway to assist in the return of the abducted girls.

Obama says the service members will help with intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft for missions over northern Nigeria. He says the force will stay in Chad until its support is no longer necessary. Chad shares a portion of its western border with northeastern Nigeria.

The girls were kidnapped last month by an Islamic extremist group known as Boko Haram.

The Nigerian government and military's failure to curtail the 5-year-old Islamic uprising led by Boko Haram, highlighted by the April 15 abduction of the schoolgirls and lack of progress in rescuing them more than a month later, has caused national and international outrage.

Both U.S. and U.K. intelligence and support teams have already been sent to Nigeria to assist in the search. France, China and Spain have also expressed interest in sending help.

"The team will be considering not just the recent incidents but also longer-term counter-terrorism solutions to prevent such attacks in the future and defeat Boko Haram," the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office said in a statement.

U.S. intelligence believes that many of the girls are being held in small groups and may have been taken into neighboring countries like Chad and Cameroon, CBS News correspondent Margaret Brennan reports. That's why the U.S. embassies in both of those countries are already coordinating with the U.S. team in Nigeria.

A Pentagon team of around 50 security experts who were already stationed in Nigeria have been assisting the government, Brennan reports. Soon, the FBI and the Justice Department are expected to join them.

There are restrictions on how much help the Pentagon can give to the Nigerian military because it is considered a human-rights violator.

"We have had concerns about the Nigerian military for quite some time," Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., said Wednesday after meeting one of the girls who escaped. "They should not deter us from cooperating to bring back those girls."

A member of Nigerian militant group Boko Haram tried to justify the targeting of children and warned of more kidnappings in an interview with CBS News earlier this week.

"You see the enemies among the children, it's acceptable to fire on all of them. You cannot differentiate the children," Saleh Abubakar told CBS News contributor Debora Patta.

Although very nervous at first, Abubakar was brazen enough to walk though heavy security and police cordons to speak to CBS News. This was in line with what a source connected to the group had said, that Boko Haram moves freely around the country and is integrated into many levels of society.

Abubakar said the abduction of the girls was in planning stages for three months.

He claimed to have seen the abducted girls three weeks ago and said they are fine. When asked about reports of the girls being sick and requiring medical attention, Abubakar denied them.

"No, it's lie. They don't have problem at all," he said.

He told CBS News nothing will happen to the girls as long as the government releases Boko Haram fighters being held in Nigerian jails.

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