(AFP) – Nigeria’s military on Tuesday claimed the rescue of 200 girls and 93 women from a notorious Boko Haram stronghold, but said there was no confirmation the hostages were those kidnapped from Chibok a year ago.
“Troops have this afternoon captured & destroyed three camps of terrorists inside the Sambisa forest & rescued 200 girls & 93 women,” defence spokesman Chris Olukolade said in a text message, referring to the area in northeast Borno state where the Islamists have bases.
“It is not yet confirmed if the girls are the Chibok girls. The freed persons are now being screened & profiled,” he added.
Olukolade gave no indication as to how long it would take for the hostages to be identified.
Boko Haram claimed the abduction of 276 girls from a secondary school in Chibok, also in Borno, on April 14 of last year.
Fifty-seven girls escaped within hours of the attack but 219 remained in captivity.
In the weeks following the mass abduction, Nigerian security sources and locals in Borno said there were indications the girls had been taken to the Sambisa Forest.
But defence officials and experts agreed that they were likely separated over the last 13 months, casting significant doubt on the possibility that they were being held together as a group.
Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, vowed to “marry them off” or sell them as “slaves.”
The Chibok attack brought unprecedented world attention to the Nigeria’s Islamist uprising.
Celebrities and prominent personalities including US First Lady Michelle Obama joined the Twitter campaign #BringBackOurGirls that attracted supporters worldwide.
But Boko Haram has also been blamed for hundreds of other kidnappings, especially targeting women and girls across northeast Nigeria.