THE first British military aircraft has been deployed to help search for more than 200 kidnapped schoolgirls missing in Nigeria.

A Sentinel reconnaissance aircraft with Lincolnshire-based 5 (Army Cooperation) Squadron left RAF Waddington yesterday bound for the Ghanaian capital of Accra, west of Nigeria where Islamist terror group Boko Haram and their captives are in hiding. The surveillance jet will join US aircraft in attempting to locate the girls, who were seized from a school dormitory on April 15.

The move comes as Foreign Secretary William Hague urged west African nations to come together to defeat Boko Haram, during international crisis talks in Paris. Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said: "The kidnap of these girls is a reprehensible act which has drawn international condemnation.

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"I am pleased that Britain's armed forces have been able to support the international search operation and provide the specialist skills which could help the Nigerians locate their missing children."

The aircraft has a crew of five and is capable of flying for significant periods of time at high altitude.

It is fitted with radar which can locate moving targets and offer radar imagery - especially useful for monitoring activity on the ground.

Rich Barrow, RAF Waddington's station commander, said: "We are permanently on stand-by to provide the UK with options during major incidents such as this and are delighted to be able to provide assistance to the Nigerian government in their efforts to find the girls and get them back with their families where they belong.