According to Nigeria’s military, more than 700 people who were abducted by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram have escaped captivity. They fled the northeast part of the country and were given shelter at a military holding facility in Borno state, reports VOA News. Not long after, Nigeria’s President declared the group, which was founded in 2002, “beaten.”
Army spokesman Col. Timothy Antigha did not disclose what time period the captives escaped, nor did he share if they were still being sheltered by the military. There has also been no independent verification of the army’s claim.
In a statement, the army spokesman said that the former captives included men, women and children. Reportedly, they had been forced to work as farm laborers by the militant group on various islands in Lake Chad. He added that escaped captives were being monitored to ensure no insurgents are hiding among them.
Since the insurgency started in 2009, the group has killed about 20,000 people. And, since May 2013, approximately 2.3 million people have been displaced. A quarter of a million have fled to nearby countries, such as Cameroon, Char or Niger. The group has gone to great lengths to turn parts of Nigerian into a staunchly-Islamic state. In April 2014, for instance, the group kidnapped 276 schoolgirls from Chibok. As a result of its devious schemes, Boko Haram was ranked as the world’s deadliest terror group by the Global Terrorism Index in 2015.
The Nigerian military enacted operation “Deep Punch II” in late December to destroy “Boko Haram infrastructure and logistics; such as communication centers, fabrication yards, bomb-making equipment, vehicles and other means of sustenance.” According to Antigha, the former captives were able to escape because of these efforts.
In a New Year’s address, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari announced that the group had been beaten. As a result, its eight-year-long insurgency is coming to an end.
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