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US troops deploy to Chad in hunt for Nigerian girls
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) May 21, 2014


Soldiers killed, taken prisoner by rebels in Mali: UN source
Bamako (AFP) May 21, 2014 - Tuareg militants killed several Malian soldiers during clashes in the rebel bastion of Kidal on Wednesday, a United Nations source told AFP, as the insurgents claimed to have taken control of the town.

The fighting shattered an uneasy calm which had held since the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) took 32 civil servants hostage during a battle which left eight Malian soldiers and 28 rebels dead.

"The noise of gunfire has stopped... There are prisoners and deaths among the Malian army's ranks," a source from the MINUSMA, the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali, told AFP, adding that the rebels appeared to have the upper hand.

Mohamed Ag Rhissa, one of the leaders of the separatist MNLA, told AFP by telephone his group had taken "control the whole town of Kidal", adding that "we have prisoners".

The fighting first broke out during a visit to Kidal on Saturday by Prime Minister Moussa Mara, whose government is backed by French soldiers who have helped dislodge rebels and armed Islamic extremists from the restive desert north.

The United States has deployed a drone and 80 troops to Chad to help with regional efforts to rescue more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped in neighboring Nigeria, officials said Wednesday.

"These personnel will support the operation of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft for missions over northern Nigeria and the surrounding area," President Barack Obama said in a letter to Congress.

"The force will remain in Chad until its support in resolving the kidnapping situation is no longer required," he said, without mentioning the type of aircraft deployed.

A US defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP the troops will oversee at least one unarmed surveillance drone to try to track those who kidnapped the Nigerian schoolgirls.

Last month, Islamist militants from the Boko Haram extremist group seized more than 200 Nigerian girls from school dormitories in the northeastern community of Chibok, near border with Chad.

Nigerian and international authorities were slow to react but, after concerned citizens launched social media campaign and the group threatened to sell the girls into slavery, offers of help have multiplied.

France also has forces in Chad, and Britain and the United States have sent small teams of specialists to Nigeria to assist President Goodluck Jonathan's government in the search for the girls.

Washington recently began surveillance drone flights over northeastern Nigeria to try to track down the location of the kidnapped girls.

Meanwhile, the violence has continued, with attacks on villages attributed to Boko Haram leaving scores dead and a bomb attack on the Nigerian city of Jos killing at least 118 people Tuesday.

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