Maiduguri — One year after the abduction of Chibok girls, Nigerian troops, yesterday, stormed the Sambisa forest hideout of the Boko Haram terrorists, and rescued 200 girls and 93 women in a daring operation.
The Defence Headquarters in a statement, yesterday, confirmed the rescue operation but said it could not yet determine if some of the girls were Chibok schoolgirls abducted over a year ago from Chibok town in Borno State.
Acting Director of Army Public Relations, Col S. K. Usman, in a statement said:
“This is to inform you that our gallant troops have been making progress in the desired aim of ridding the nation of terrorists and their sanctuaries.
“It is heartwarming to inform you that today (yesterday), troops continued the offensive and cleared four key terrorist camps in Sambisa forest, Borno State. So far, they have destroyed and cleared Sassa, Tokumbere and two other camps in the general area of Alafa, all within the Sambisa forest.
“The troops have also rescued 200 abducted girls and 93 women. They are presently being processed. Similarly, a number of equipment and weapons have been captured. We will send further details and photographs soon.”
Also confirming the operation, Director, Defence Information, Major-General Chris Olukolade, said he could not confirm the identity of the freed victims and their origins and he could not state if any of them was from Chibok until after thorough screening and proper investigations.
He said: “I can only confirm the rescue this afternoon (yesterday) of 200 girls and 93 women in different camps in the forest. We are yet to determine their origin as all the freed persons are now being screened and profiled. We will provide more details later.”
Boko Haram kills 22 in Borno
Meanwhile, no fewer than 22 people were killed by suspected Boko Haram members in Marguba community and surrounding villages of Beneshiekh, the headquarters of Kaga Local Government Area of Borno State.
The insurgents, according to sources, also injured many residents after setting ablaze several houses, mostly those with thatched roofs, before looting foodstuff and livestock.
Beneshiekh is north west and about 76 kilometres drive from Maiduguri, the state capital. It is located on the fringes of Sambisa forest along Maiduguri-Damaturu-Kano road which have witnessed series of deadly attacks by insurgents.
This development is coming barely 24 hours after a group of insurgents laid ambush on some returning residents, killing 21 in Bultaram village of Gujba council area of Borno State while attempting to return to their sacked village to evacuate their abandoned foodstuff and livestock.
Fleeing residents recount ordeal
Our correspondent reliably gathered from fleeing residents now taking refuge in Beneshiekh town that “the insurgents came from Sambisa forest axis and stormed the villages Monday evening, wreaked havoc as they had a field day without confrontation.
“Our communities have been ransacked by a group of terrorists numbering over 100 who came in over five Hilux vehicles, motorcycles armed with AK-47 rifles, Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and local petrol bombs, killing 17 residents in Marguba community and other villages near Beneshiekh.
“I was among the lucky survivors who escaped the attacks with my wife and two kids, we are presently taking refuge in Beneshiekh.
“It is unfortunate that many people thought that with the victory of General Muhammadu Buhari (retd) at the March 28 presidential elections, things related to killings and destruction by the insurgents will end, but it appears that worse is still on the way as many communities were attacked by insurgents in the north-east after the elections.”
Contacted, the cell phone of the acting Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Asso Emmanuel was not reachable, but a member of the civilian JTF from Beneshiekh confirmed the incident, pointing out that 22 people were killed in desperate attacks in nearby villages of Beneshiekh.
He also claimed that the situation had been brought under control as troops with support from members of vigilante youth are currently combing the area to apprehend fleeing insurgents.
It will be recalled that on April 15 2014, 276 female students were kidnapped from the Government Secondary School in the town of Chibok in Borno State, by Boko Haram terrorists. 57 of them however managed to escape while they were being conveyed to the forests and after some days in captivity.
On October 17 2014, hopes were raised that the 219 remaining girls might soon be released after the Nigerian army announced a truce between Boko Haram and government forces. The announcement coincided with the six-month anniversary of the girls’ capture and followed a month of negotiations mediated in Saudi Arabia by Chadian president, Idris Déby.
It will also be recalled that the National Security Adviser, Col Sambo Dasuki (rtd) and the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Kenneth Minimah at several occasions stated that the truth about the whereabouts of the 200 girls of the Government Secondary School, Chibok will be made known when the attack to liberate Sambisa forest is carried out.The truce turned out to be false as Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau claimed that the girls have been married out
Before now several communities including Gwoza and Madagali where the girls were suspected to have been kept, were liberated and there were no signs of the girls with freed captives saying they don’t know the whereabouts of the girls.
Security sources told Vanguard that the vast Sambisa forest was not attacked before now because the military wanted to liberate all adjoining communities to the forest and secure possible escape routes whenever the operation to attack the forest was launched.
Moreover, intelligence reports showed that all entry and exit points into the forest had been heavily laden with landmines and other dangerous explosives which newly acquired weaponry such as mines-sweeping armoured tanks have been clearing.
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