In this photo made available by the Nigerian Military taken
Wednesday, April 29, 2015, a Nigerian soldier stands next to woman and
children that were allegedly rescued by the Nigerian Military after
being taken by Islamic extremists in Sambisa Forest, Nigeria. (Nigerian Military via AP)
military rescued 234 more girls and women from a Boko Haram forest
stronghold in the country's northeast, an announcement on social media
It brings the number of females declared rescued this week to more than 677.
"FLASH: Another set of 234 women and children
were rescued through the Kawuri and Konduga end of the #Sambisa Forest
on Thursday," said a message on the official Twitter account of the
Nigerian Defence Headquarters posted early Saturday.
It comes as the army deployed ground troops following weeks of punishing air raids on the Sambisa Forest.
President Goodluck Jonathan, whose term ends this
month, said Thursday that the forest is the last holdout of the Islamic
militants and he pledged to "hand over a Nigeria completely free of
It is not known how many girls, women, boys and
men Boko Haram has kidnapped during its nearly 6-year-old rebellion.
Nigeria's army has reported rescuing only females.
The Associated Press has reported that some women
shot at their rescuers and were killed, with Boko Haram using them as
an armed human shield for its main fighting force.
Boko Haram continues to attack in isolated
places. The governor of a province in neighboring Niger has ordered
residents of Lake Chad to evacuate by Monday when a government official
said troops will flush the militants from hideouts.
A Boko Haram attack on Karamga island in Lake
Chad last weekend left 156 militants, 46 Niger soldiers and 28 civilians
dead, Niger's government said.
As the insurgency spilled over Nigeria's borders,
a multinational force consisting of Nigeria and its neighbors deployed
at the end of January and has retaken towns and villages where Boko
Haram had declared an Islamic caliphate. Nigeria's military, which had
largely failed to curb the rebellion, has been reinvigorated by new
weapons including helicopter gunships.
Nigeria's military says it has flown in medical
and intelligence teams to screen the rescued girls and women and find
out their identities. Army spokesman Col. Sani Usman said most are
It is still not known if any are the students
kidnapped from a boarding school in Chibok town a year ago — a mass
kidnapping that outraged much of the world.
A counselor who has helped rehabilitate other
women held captive by Boko Haram told the AP that some identify with the
insurgents' extremist ideology after months of captivity and forced
It remains unclear if some of the women had willingly joined Boko Haram, or are family members of fighters.
Boko Haram began kidnapping civilians after
Nigeria's military detained the wives and children of several militant
leaders. They were freed amid failed peace negotiations in 2013.
Some of the freed women and girls are pregnant,
Muhammad Gavi, a spokesman for a self-defense group that fights Boko
Haram, said citing information from group members who have seen the
Amnesty International called on authorities "to
ensure that the trauma of those 'rescued' is not exacerbated by lengthy
security screening in detention."
The Nigerian military Friday released photos of
about 20 subdued-looking children and women they said were taken between
Tuesday and Thursday in the Sambisa Forest. They look generally healthy
but at least one child looks emaciated and some children have the
orange-colored hair signaling severe malnutrition.
A young military medic with blue rubber gloves and a surgical mask appears to be checking several children