Nearly 300 Nigerian women and girls rescued
MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AP) – Nigerian troops rescued nearly 300 girls and women during an offensive Tuesday against Boko Haram militants in the northeastern Sambisa Forest, the military said, but they did not include any of the schoolgirls kidnapped from Chibok a year ago.
The army announced the rescue on Twitter and said it was screening and interviewing the abducted girls and women.
Troops destroyed and cleared four militant camps and rescued 200 abducted girls and 93 women “but they are not the Chibok girls”, army spokesman Colonel Sani Usman told The Associated Press.
Nearly 300 schoolgirls were kidnapped from the northeastern town of Chibok by the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram in April 2014. The militants took the schoolgirls in trucks into the Sambisa Forest. Dozens escaped, but 219 remain missing.
The plight of the schoolgirls, who have become known as “the Chibok girls”, aroused international outrage and a campaign for their release under the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls.
Their kidnapping brought Boko Haram to the attention of the world, with even United States first lady Michelle Obama becoming involved as she tweeted a photograph of herself holding the campaign sign.
Boko Haram has kidnapped 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.
A military source who was in Sambisa told The Associated Press that some of the women rescued Tuesday fought back, and that Boko Haram was using armed women as human shields, putting them as their first line of defence.
The Nigerian troops managed to subdue them and rounded them all up, and some said they were forced to fight for Boko Haram, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Boko Haram also 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.