Nigeria’s military says more than 700 people abducted by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram have escaped captivity in the northeast of the country.
Army spokesman, Col. Timothy Antigha, said the escaped captives were given shelter at a military holding facility in the northeastern town of Monguno, in Borno state.
Antigha did not say over what time period the captives escaped or whether or not they are still being sheltered by the military. There has been no independent verification of the army’s claim.
In a statement, Antigha said the abductees included men, women and children, and he said most were forced to work as farm laborers by the insurgents on various islands in Lake Chad. He said the military was monitoring the escaped captives to ensure there are no militants hiding among them.
The spokesman said the captives’ escape was connected to a recent armed forces operation against the militants, named Deep Punch II. He said the operation was aimed at “destroying Boko Haram infrastructure and logistics; such as communication centers, fabrication yards, bomb-making equipment, vehicles and other means of sustenance.”
In a New Year’s address, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said that Boko Haram had been beaten. Boko Haram has killed about 20,000 people in its eight-year long insurgency aimed at turning parts of Nigerian into a staunchly-Islamic state.
Police, civilians, churches, and mosques, have been among its targets for attacks.
Last Monday, on Christmas, Nigerian soldiers say they thwarted an attempted terrorist attack by suspected Boko Haram militants on the city of Maiduguri.
Army officials gave no details on what happened.
But one a local militia leader told the French News Agency the militants used the cover of a civilian convoy to approach a military checkpoint outside the city and started firing.
Soldiers responded with their own gunfire. Reinforcements from inside Maiduguri rushed to the scene, driving off the would-be terrorists.