The Nigerian army claims to have rescued more than 800 hostages from Boko Haram, the militant group that has held major swathes of territory in the country.
NPR’s Gregory Warner tells our Newscast Unit that it “was not immediately clear whether the rescues included any of the 200 schoolgirls kidnapped nearly two years ago [who inspired] the #BringBackOurGirls movement.” Here’s more from Gregory:
“The 800 hostages were all rescued in the northeastern Nigerian state of Borno. It’s the same state where two years ago more than 200 schoolgirls were kidnapped from the village of Chibok by the Islamist group. The global outcry over that kidnapping led to a regional military coalition that has turned the tables of the war, routing many Boko Haram holdouts and freeing many hostages.
“Boko Haram is still launching terrorist attacks. Two female suicide bombers sent by Boko Haram were intercepted in Cameroon. One blew herself up … [The] other claimed she is one of the kidnapped Chibok girls. And she’s 15 years old.”
In a statement, Nigeria’s military says the hostages were rescued during a “spectacular clearance operation” on Tuesday, as they were working to push remaining Boko Haram militants from the area.
The military says 520 of the hostages were rescued from the village of Kusumma, while another 309 were rescued during operations across 11 other villages. It added that the troops were “basking in the unprecedented achievement.”
There is currently no independent confirmation of the military’s figures.
According to The Guardian, “the military operations came on the same day that Boko Haram abducted 16 women, including two girls, in neighbouring Adamawa state.”
But even in this moment of relief for the hostages, difficulties may lie ahead.
As NPR has reported, Nigeria’s armed forces freed other hostages in the past few months during its campaign against Boko Haram.
NPR’s Lourdes Garcia-Navarro spoke to UNICEF’S Rachel Harvey last month about what happens when freed Boko Haram captives return home. Some of the women are being rejected by their families after forced marriages to the fighters. Here’s what Harvey said:
“As the Nigerian armed forces started to take back these territories and the women and the girls came back, but also the children who had been born out of sexual violence, we were finding that communities and families were struggling to accept these children and women and girls back… So there’s a fear about the returning girls and women, that they somehow may have been radicalized because they’ve spent such long periods under the control of Boko Haram.”
She adds that babies born from Boko Haram fathers are also viewed by many as a possible threat to their communities.