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Israel to help hunt for Nigerian schoolgirls

The team will join a growing international effort to track down the children.

Hundreds of people took the the street in Sandton, Johannesburg demanding the immediate release of over 200 girls in Nigeria on 8 May 2014. Picture: Sebabatso Mosamo/EWN.

JERUSALEM - 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 US 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.

Meanwhile, Britain said on Monday that a military surveillance aircraft it had despatched to help search for the missing schoolgirls in Nigeria had broken down en route.

The plane, an RAF Sentinel, was deployed on Sunday after Nigeria accepted an offer of help from British Prime Minister David Cameron.

It was meant to join US aircraft in the search for the missing girls.

"The Sentinel has been delayed en route by a technical problem which is being investigated," a spokeswoman for Britain's Ministry of Defence told Reuters. "We are currently unable to provide the aircraft's expected time of arrival."

Local media reported that the plane, which Britain had said would operate from Accra in Ghana, had been forced to land in Senegal for repairs.