Friday, 1 May 2015
Nigerian Military Rescue 150 More Women And Girls From Boko Haram Enclave
Up to 150 more women and children have been rescued from Boko Haram extremists in the remote Sambisa Forest, Nigeria’s military said – amid reports that some of the women fought their rescuers fiercely.
A community leader from the area of northeast Nigeria said on Thursday that a senior army officer who was at the scene described the women opening fire on shocked troops in the village of Nobita a week ago, with Boko Haram Islamist insurgents using the women to shield their main fighting force.
He said he was told that 12 women fighters and seven soldiers died in a fierce firefight. The community leader spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue and personal security risks.
The Nigerian military first reported rescuing almost 300 women and children in the Sambisa Forest on Tuesday after deploying ground troops into the forest.
The army spokesman, Colonel Sani Usman, told Associated Press on Thursday that more than 100 additional girls and 50 more women have also been rescued.
He said in a statement that several lives were lost, including that of a soldier and a woman, during shootouts in nine separate extremist camps in the forest.
He said eight women sustained gunshot wounds and four soldiers were seriously injured. It was not clear who shot the women.
All the women and children were being evacuated to a safety zone for further processing, Usman said.
It remains unclear if some of the women had willingly joined Boko Haram, or are family members of fighters.
Also killed were several Boko Haram field commanders and foot soldiers. Combat tanks and munitions of high calibre used by Boko Haram were also recovered, the army spokesman said.
The military was flying in medical and intelligence teams to evaluate the former captives, many of whom were severely traumatised.
It remained unclear if any of the schoolgirls kidnapped from the northeastern town of Chibok a year ago were among those rescued.
The plight of the pupils, known as the Chibok girls, aroused international outrage and a campaign for their release using the Twitter hashtag #BringBackOurGirls.
Their kidnapping brought Boko Haram, whose name means western education is forbidden in the local Hausa language, to the world’s attention. Of the 276 Chibok girls kidnapped, 219 remain missing.
Nigerian military and counter-insurgency spokesmen said they believe some of the Chibok girls still are being held in the Sambisa Forest.
Some captives have reportedly become indoctrinated into believing the group’s Islamic extremist ideology, while others established strong emotional attachments to militants they had been forced to marry.
The failure of Nigeria’s government and military to quickly rescue the girls brought international condemnation.
The military initially appeared incapable of curbing Boko Haram as the insurgents took control of a large swath of northeast Nigeria last year and declared it an Islamic caliphate.
That changed when the military received much-needed helicopter gunships and heavy arms and a multinational force launched an offensive at the end of January.
Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan said on Thursday only the Sambisa Forest remains a refuge for the militants.
Jonathan, who will step down as president on 29 May, pledged to “hand over a Nigeria completely free of terrorist strongholds,” at a regional meeting of customs officials on Thursday.
He lost the country’s election on 28 March, in part because of the military failures and a perceived uncaring attitude to the plight of victims of Boko Haram.
Former military dictator Muhammadu Buhari will take over as president on 29 May.
Photo Credit: Reuters