Nigerian army 'frees nearly 180 Boko Haram hostages'

Nigeria’s army claimed to have freed nearly 180 hostages — including more than 100 children — held by Boko Haram jihadists in a dramatic weekend rescue.

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MAIDUGURI, NIGERIA // Nigeria’s army claimed to have freed nearly 180 hostages — including more than 100 children — held by Boko Haram jihadists in a dramatic weekend rescue.

The operation also led to the capture of a Boko Haram commander, an army spokesman said in a statement late Sunday.

The military said earlier that it had killed a “large number” of the extremists in air strikes in the northeast.

The operation took place on Sunday near Aulari, about 70 kilometres south of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, once a militant stronghold.

“During the offensive operations, 178 people held captive by the terrorists were rescued,” military spokesman Colonel Tukur Gusau said, without specifying when the rescue took place.

“They include 101 children, 67 women and 10 men.”

The Nigerian military has announced the release of hundreds of people held by Boko Haram in recent months, especially in the notorious Sambisa forest.

The air strikes hit the village of Bita on the fringes of the forest not far from the border with Cameroon, where Boko Haram was preparing to launch an offensive, the military said. “Many” militants were killed, it added.

Sunday’s rescue came after several attacks by Boko Haram in recent days. Thirteen people were killed in an assault on Malari village about 20 kilometres from Maiduguri.

* Agence France-Presse