After almost three months of frantic search for the Chibok schoolgirls abducted by the notorious Islamist militants, Boko Haram, US surveillance planes searching for the group have spotted what appears to be large groups of girls held together in some remote part of north-eastern Nigeria, reports suggest.
The event has raised hopes among domestic and foreign officials that the spotted groups could be among the 219 schoolgirls abducted by the militant group in April, US and Nigerian officials have said according to This Day Live website.
This will also be the first time an international force, who had offered to help search the kidnapped girls, would be handing in a near definite information on the whereabouts of at least some of the girls.
The findings from the US surveillance suggest that at least some of the 219 schoolgirls, held captives, haven't been forced into marriage or sex slavery, as had been feared. Some of the girls, possibly, are being used as bargaining chips for the release of the Boko Haram militants, The Wall Street Journal notes.
According to the newspaper, the US aerial imagery matched with descriptions from northern Nigerians who have interacted in the past with the militants. The images tended to match the reported descriptions that Boko Haram's most famous set of captives were getting special treatment, compared to hundreds of other girls the group has abducted in the past.
Officials have said the Islamist group seems to be giving the Chibok schoolgirls more importance due to the global attention the case has received, the Journal notes.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, who will be running for re-election, is under pressure to have the girls released with many people suggesting that the girls be swapped with the militants held in prison. The president has, however, ruled out the option saying it is unwilling to risk the girls' live or let prisoners free.
In Washington, President Obama has told African leaders that the US will help Nigeria fight the Boko Haram militants. However, according to former American Ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell, Nigeria was not in for a cooperation to deal with Boko Haram, Indonesian news portal Tempo notes.