Nigeria army rescues nearly 300 females from Boko Haram

Army spokesman says the hostages freed during military offensive are not schoolgirls abducted from Chibok last year.

Nigerian troops rescued nearly 300 girls and women during an offensive against Boko Haram fighters in the northeastern Sambisa Forest, the military said.

Al Jazeera’s Yvonne Ndege, reporting from Abuja, said on Wednesday that the Nigerian military was planning to release photos and more information of the women and girls rescued.

“What we understand is that there is a screening process to find out where they are from. We managed to speak to Nigeria’s military spokesman who believes some of the women are wives of Boko Haram fighters,” our correspondent said.

The army announced the rescue on Twitter on Tuesday and said it was screening and interviewing the abducted girls and women. 

Nearly 300 schoolgirls were seized from the northeastern town of Chibok by the armed group Boko Haram in April 2014. The fighters took the schoolgirls in trucks into the Sambisa Forest. Dozens escaped, but 219 remain missing.

The Associated Press news agency, however, quoted an army spokesman, Colonel Sani Usman, as saying that the 200 abducted girls and 93 women “are not the Chibok girls”.

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Boko Haram has abducted an unknown number of girls, women and young men to be used as sex slaves and fighters. Many have escaped or been released as Boko Haram has fled a multinational offensive that began at the end of January.

Earlier this month, rights group Amnesty International published a report saying that the armed group has abducted at least 2,000 women and girls since the start of 2014. 

Boko Haram has used girls and women as suicide bombers, sending them into crowded market places and elsewhere.

A month ago the Nigerian military began pounding the Sambisa Forest in air raids, an assault they said earlier they had been avoiding for fear of killing the Chibok schoolgirls, or inciting their captors to kill them.

Two weeks ago, counterinsurgency spokesman Mike Omeri said a multinational offensive that began at the end of January had driven Boko Haram from all major towns in the northeast and that Nigerian forces were concentrating on the stronghold in the Sambisa Forest.

The group has been waging an increasingly deadly insurgency in Nigeria’s mainly Muslim north since 2009, attacking schools teaching a “Western” curriculum, churches and government targets.

Civilians have borne the brunt of the violence. According to human rights group Amnesty International, more that 5,500 civilians have been killed and more than 1.5 million people, including 800,000 children, have fled their homes due to the violence.

Boko Haram implements a strict interpretation of Islamic law in the areas that it holds and wants to create an Islamic state in the mainly Muslim north.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies