80 U.S. Air Force personnel on ground in Chad
Eighty U.S. Air Force personnel have arrived in Chad and have begun their mission to help locate nearly 300 schoolgirls kidnapped in neighboring Nigeria, a U.S. military spokesman said May 22.
The girls and young women were kidnapped April 15 from a school in the northeast Nigerian town of Chibok by an Islamic extremist group known as Boko Haram. The group’s leader has threatened to sell most of the estimated 276 schoolgirls still being held into slavery unless the Nigerian government releases detained militants. Reports say some girls were taken across borders into Chad and Cameroon.
Chuck Prichard, a spokesman at the U.S. military’s Africa Command in Germany, said Thursday that the 80 Air Force personnel were moved to Chad from a location inside the United States. Prichard did not say precisely where the 80 were previously stationed.
President Barack Obama told Congress in a letter May 21 about the deployment. Obama said the service members will help with intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft for missions over northern Nigeria and the nearby region.
A senior U.S. official said the drone is a Predator and will be in addition to the unarmed Global Hawks already being used. The new flights will be based out of Chad and allow the military to expand its search to that country. Initially the flights were largely over Nigeria.
Lt. Col. Myles Caggins said May 21 that newly deployed forces will help expand drone searches of the region. About 40 of the troops make up the launch and recovering teams for the drone being deployed there and the other 40 make up the security force for the team. AP
Classified U.S. satellite launched into space
The U.S. Air Force has launched a top-secret satellite.
The unmanned Atlas V rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., May 22, soaring through a clear morning sky. It hoisted a satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office, which designs, builds and flies America’s intelligence satellites.
The mission is classified for national security reasons and so no details are available about the satellite. Launch commentary ended five minutes after liftoff. Launch Control called the liftoff a success.
United Launch Alliance provided the rocket. AP
Russian trains, planes move army away from Ukraine
Russia’s Defense Ministry says it already has sent several trains carrying weapons and planeloads of troops out of the regions near Ukraine.
It said four trainloads of weapons and 15 Il-76 heavy lift transport planes left the Belgorod, Bryansk and Rostov regions May 20. It said in Thursday’s statement that the troops are to reach their permanent bases before June 1.
NATO, which estimates that Russia has 40,000 troops along the border with Ukraine, repeated Tuesday that it didn’t yet see any signs of a Russian withdrawal.
Russian President Vladimir Putin scoffed at NATO’s skepticism, saying that the pullout involving large numbers of troops would take time. His move reflected an attempt to ease tensions with the West over Ukraine and avoid a new round of Western sanctions. AP