Boko Haram girls to be evacuated
Published 29/04/2015 | 14:21
After carrying out a mass rescue of 200 girls and 93 women from the forest stronghold of an Islamic insurgent group, Nigeria's military is evacuating the females and plans to check their physical and mental health, an army spokesman has said.
Colonel Sani Usman said many are traumatised and the military is flying in medical and intelligence teams to examine them.
He added today that it remained to be seen if any were among the 219 who are still missing more than a year after being snatched from a boarding school in Chibok, a town in north-east Nigeria, in a mass kidnapping that outraged much of the world.
The evacuation from the Sambisa Forest in north-east Nigeria began yesterday but Col Usman would not say where the rescued females are being taken. He added that they needed to be questioned to determine their identities.
"The processing is continuing, it involves a lot of things because most of them are traumatised and you have got to put them in a psychological frame of mind to extract information from them," Col Usman said.
While the Chibok kidnapping on April 14 2014, made the extremist group Boko Haram known to much of the world, the group has been steadily kidnapping females.
Amnesty International said this month that at least 2,000 women and girls have been abducted by Boko Haram since the start of 2014 and many have been forced into sexual slavery and trained to fight
Of the women and girls who were rescued in recent days, an intelligence officer and a soldier said Boko Haram used some of them as armed human shields, a first line of defence that fired at troops. But the soldiers managed to subdue them and round them up, they added.
Col Usman said military operations continue in the forest where the women and girls were rescued while troops destroyed four Boko Haram camps.
"Sambisa Forest is a large expanse of land, so what we were able to get is four out of several terrorist camps in the forest," he said of the area that sprawls over 60,000 square kilometres (23,170 square miles).
Nigeria's military largely stood by last year as Boko Haram took over dozens of towns and declared a large swath of north-eastern Borno state an Islamic caliphate.
That changed when a multinational offensive led by Chad began at the end of January.
Now, Nigeria's military says it has driven the Islamic extremists out of all towns with help from troops from Chad and Niger while Cameroonian soldiers have been guarding their borders to prevent the militants from escaping.
Scores of abducted girls, women and men have been freed or escaped from Boko Haram in the process. It is not known how many were abducted by Boko Haram, which used them as sex slaves and fighters.
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 kidnapped women and girls, or inciting their captors to kill them.
Boko Haram continues to attack isolated communities. The government of neighbouring Niger said a Boko Haram attack on Karamga island in Lake Chad over the weekend killed 156 militants, 46 soldiers and 28 civilians.