The Nigerian military rescued a second set of female captives April 29 from the Sambisa Forest stronghold of Boko Haram in northeastern Borno state, just one day after securing more than 200 girls and 93 women from the same area, the Associated Press reported.
About 220 teenage Chibok school girls missing for more than a year are not believed to be among those secured, but the identities of all of the females recovered are still being determined, Nigeria military officials said in news reports. Officials have not disclosed the number of women and girls included in the second set of captives freed, but those rescued have been evacuated to a safety zone for further screening, Col. Sani Usman told the AP.
In a separate news report, the French news agency AFP (“Agence France-Presse”) numbered the two groups of freed women and girls at nearly 500.
“Whoever they may be, the important thing is that Nigerians held captive under very severe and inhuman conditions have been freed by our gallant troops,” the AFP quoted defense spokesman Chris Olukolade.
Those rescued are said to be traumatized and in need of intensive psychological treatment. Some have been so indoctrinated in Boko Haram ideology, that the females opened fire on soldiers trying to free them, and others may have become emotionally attached to militants they were forced to marry, the AP reported.
In the latest rescue, several people were killed, including a Nigerian soldier and a woman. At least eight women were shot and four soldiers were seriously injured. The Nigerian military will continue to “comprehensively” clean out the Sambisa Forest where Boko Haram is believed to maintain several camps, military officials said.
“There is great hope for the recovery of more hostages of the terrorists,” the AFP quoted Olukolade.
Boko Haram has suffered losses, but has also recaptured some towns in northeastern Nigeria since the nation’s presidential elections a month ago. Newly elected president Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim who identifies as a Democrat, takes office May 29.
Buhari has vowed to defeat Boko Haram and gain freedom for the 219 Chibok school girls still missing since the militants kidnapped nearly 300 students and destroyed their boarding school April 15, 2014. The kidnapping mobilized the international community in searching for the girls, and spread public interest under the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. Most of the girls were never recovered; more than 70 managed to escape without military assistance.
Since the beginning of 2014, Boko Haram has kidnapped at least 2,000 women and girls from their families, Amnesty International has estimated. Boko Haram had pledged to imprison some of them as sex slaves, and officials believe many of those captured may have been used as suicide bombers or human shields, according to news reports.
Boko Haram militants are blamed for killing 15,000 or more Christians and moderate Muslims since 2009, and leaving more than 1.5 million homeless. Boko Haram has pledged allegiance to the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)