300 sorties flown in hunt for abducted Nigerian schoolgirls

Major General Chris Olukolade speaks with ITV News' Ragel Omaar. Credit: ITV News

The Nigerian military has flown more than 300 sorties in the search for the abducted schoolgirls, Major General Chris Olukolade has told ITV News' Rageh Omaar.

In his first interview with British media, Major General Olukolade explained that since the kidnapping happened the level of surveillance "has been heightened" and two army division had been mobilised in the hunt for the girls.

He said: "Since the incident happened the level of surveillance over the area has been heightened. We have a higher level of airforce flights - virtually on a 24 hour basis. We have flown over 300 sorties over the entire area and the border areas.

"The army has mobilised over two divisions of its forces to get involved and focus on the search for the girls.The security agencies in all the border locations have been alerted to coordinate with the two divisions."

He added that all options remain on the table to rescue the girls, including talks and military action.

Read more: Video claims to show kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls

Boko Haram claim they will release the girls in exchange for prisoners. Credit: AFP

More than 200 girls were abducted from their school dormitory in the town of Chibok on April 14. Some managed to escape but around 200 remain missing. Islamist militant group Boko Haram have claimed responsibility for the act.

The military spokesman told ITV News that since the abduction, the military has been receiving incorrect and misleading information about their possible whereabouts - some of which they believe could have come from Boko Haram itself.

Read more: Boko Haram: Who are the radicals kidnapping Nigeria's schoolgirls?

Major General Chris Olukolade speaks with ITV News' Ragel Omaar. Credit: ITV News

Major General Chris Olukolade explained that being under the international media spotlight had been both a help and hindrance to the military efforts.

He said: "Hindrance in the sense there has been a lot of misunderstanding about what is happening on the ground, a lot of blame and buckpassing -some of it with political undertones. But the positive side of it is this has called on international attention, in combating a crime that is both trans-border and global. Terrorism has become that. All nations must collaborate to deal with this crime."

Islamist rebel group Boko Haram have said the girls would be released in exchange for the release of prisoners. Credit: AFP

Major General Chris Olukolade told ITV News that discussions between Nigeria and Britain are on-going about the help Britain can provide for the ongoing operation to bring the girls home safely.

Asked if the Nigerian army had been given a four-hour warning ahead of the abduction, as had been alleged, Major Olukolade said: "I would not say that was true or would I deny it."

He added: "I must put in perspective the situation on the ground. We get information every second of a likely attack from practically every community in the whole of the north east, so this is nothing new. And most of it turns out to be very frivolous. Up to now we get frivolous and misleading information from that area, So its not unlikely that people are latching on to this kind of thing and calling it a warning."

He went on to explained that those involved with the kidnapping were stopped by a military patrols, and after questioning it became apparent they were "up to mischief" and the troops called for reinforcements. Those reinforcements were ambushed but further troops were deployed.

He said: "The information is going out there to give the impression there was no response is part of the campaign to discredit the Nigerian military."