Nigeria's army rescued 338 people who were being held captive by Boko Haram and raided a number of the Islamist militant group's camps on the edge of its stronghold in the Sambisa Forest in northeastern Nigeria, the army announced on Wednesday.
Troops carried out the successful camp raids on Tuesday in the northeastern villages of Bulajilin and Manawashe, according to the army — which has been very vocal in publicizing its accomplishments as part of the government's attempt in recent months to ramp up the fight against Boko Haram.
"The rescued persons, which comprised eight males, 138 females and 192 children, have since been evacuated," military spokesman Sani Usman told Reuters (which was unable to independently verify the army's reports). Thirty suspected militants had been killed, added Usman.
Suspected members of the militant group claimed the lives of at least 37 people and wounded 107 others last week in Adamawa and Borno states.
Over the course of Boko Haram's six-year-long insurgency in the West African nation, the group has killed thousands and displaced more than 2 million people in the remote northeast. Boko Haram captured the world's outrage in April 2014 when 219 schoolgirls were kidnapped in Chibok town. None of those girls have been rescued.
Since this past April, attacks carried out by the militant group have forced thousands from their homes, including more than 500,000 children — primarily from northern Nigeria, but also from Chad, Cameroon, and Niger.
The continued violence comes even as the Nigerian military has boosted its campaign to root the militants out of the northeast. While the military claims to have regained territory from Boko Haram in recent months, the home-grown Islamist militant group has shifted tactics, carrying out suicide bombings and soft target attacks more frequently than the full-scale raids of last year.
Boko Haram's main stronghold in the vast Sambisa Forest reserve has been challenging for the military to infiltrate because of landmines laid across the area by the militant group. In the last few months the military has ramped up its offensive into the Sambisa and surrounding areas with air strikes and an increase in ground troops.
While Nigeria pushes the militants into the bush, the group has spread into neighboring countries like Chad and Niger, bringing its brand of violence with it. Suspected Boko Haram militants killed at least 14 people in an overnight attack on a village in southeastern Niger, security sources told Reuters on Wednesday.
"They executed at least 14 civilians," one of the sources said, referring to the village of Ala in the Diffa region near the Nigerian border.
A second security source said that the assailants had looted the village and then set fire to the houses. Niger's army is pursuing the militants, he added. Niger's Diffa region has suffered dozens of cross-border attacks this year by the Islamist militant group whose stronghold in northeast Nigeria lies just a few kilometres away.
The country's parliament approved a law on Tuesday that prolongs a 15-day state of emergency for Diffa by three months in a bid to boost security. The state of emergency, which includes a curfew and a restriction on transporting goods, was initially enacted on October 15 and would have expired at the end of the month.
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