Israel sends experts to help hunt for Nigerian schoolgirls

JERUSALEM Tue May 20, 2014 7:58am BST

Nigerians take part in a protest demanding for the release of secondary school girls abducted from the remote village of Chibok, in Asokoro, Abuja May 13, 2014.  REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

Nigerians take part in a protest demanding for the release of secondary school girls abducted from the remote village of Chibok, in Asokoro, Abuja May 13, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde

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JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel has sent intelligence experts to Nigeria to help search for more than 200 schoolgirls abducted last month by Islamist rebel group Boko Haram, an Israeli official said on Tuesday.

The team, which the official said included people experienced in dealing with hostage situations, will join a growing international effort to track down the children.

"These are not operational troops, they're there to advise," the Israeli official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The U.S. military is already flying manned and unmanned surveillance aircraft over Nigeria to look for the girls, whose abduction triggered a worldwide outcry and piled pressure on Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan to deal with the rebels.

Boko Haram has killed thousands of people in its campaign to establish an Islamic state in mostly Muslim northeast Nigeria.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent his team out about a week ago after discussing the situation with Jonathan, the official added.

Israel has defence ties with a number of African countries, and had sold surveillance drones to Nigeria. Last September, Israel sent advisers to Kenya to help in a stand-off with Islamist attackers at a shopping mall in Nairobi.

(Reporting by Dan Williams; Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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