300 Females Rescued From Boko Haram

300 Females Rescued From Boko Haram300 Females Rescued From Boko Haram

Nigeria’s army rescued 200 girls and 93 women during a military operation to wrest back the Sambisa Forest from the Boko Haram militant group, it said on Twitter late Tuesday.

Army spokesman Col. Sani Usman said many were traumatized. He said the military on Wednesday was flying in medical and intelligence teams to establish their psychological and physical health. The troops started evacuating them from the Sambisa Forest on Tuesday but would not say to where, AP said in a report.

Military operations continue in the forest where it was announced Tuesday the women and girls were rescued while troops were destroying four Boko Haram camps.

An intelligence officer and a soldier say Boko Haram used some of the women as armed human shields, a first line of defense who fired at troops. They demanded anonymity because the issue is sensitive.

However, Nigeria’s top brass warned Wednesday against premature declarations on 200 girls rescued from Boko Haram after the army said they were not the same girls kidnapped by the militants in an especially notorious incident in Chibok.

Defense spokesman Chris Olukolade said the former hostages were being screened to determine their identities and said it was “not yet confirmed” if the Chibok schoolgirls were among them.

“It’s not wise or safe to quickly declare that there are no Chibok girls among them. You never can say. One or two could be among them,” he said. “The fact is that that number has to be screened. We must have heard from them saying where they came from. For now, they are still being screened to ascertain their identities.”

Nigerian forces backed by warplanes invaded the vast former colonial game reserve late last week as part of a push to win back territory from the group.

Boko Haram, notorious for violence against civilians, controlled an area roughly the size of Belgium at the start of the year but has since been beaten back by Nigerian troops, backed by Chad, Niger and Cameroon.

  Unknown Fate

Boko Haram insurgents kidnapped 276 girls from their school in Chibok, Borno state, on April 14 last year. Fifty-seven escaped in the hours that followed but 219 have been held since then in an incident which provoked worldwide condemnation.

Any rescue would be welcomed not just in Nigeria, where supporters have maintained a daily vigil for their release in the capital, Abuja, and around the world.

But army spokesman Sani Usman appeared to dash hopes of their liberation.

“Naturally the Chibok girls will come to people’s mind when they hear that 200 girls have been rescued from Boko Haram in Sambisa Forest. But from our preliminary investigations the rescued girls are not those abducted from Chibok in April last year.”

Usman said the vast former colonial-era game reserve housed several Boko Haram camps and the military had so far destroyed only four.

Troops were working to establish the identities of the girls and women as well as when and where they were abducted, he said. Some 2,000 women and girls have been kidnapped since the start of last year, according to Amnesty International.

“Our operation is ongoing and we hope to rescue all these girls and women, including the Chibok girls from Boko Haram, in due course,” Usman added. “But now we can state clearly that these girls are not Chibok girls.”