Nigeria’s army has rescued 200 girls and 93 women during a military operation to wrest back the Sambisa Forest from the Boko Haram Islamist terrorist group, Reuters reported on Tuesday.
“Troops this afternoon rescued 200 girls and 93 women from Sambisa Forest. We cannot confirm if the Chibok girls are in this group,” the army said on Tuesday, adding Nigerian troops had also destroyed three camps run by the terrorists there.
Boko Haram kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls near the northern village of Chibok in April 2014, causing an international outcry.
Diplomats and intelligence officials say they believed at least some of the girls were being held in the forest about 100 kilometers (60 miles) from Chibok, although U.S. reconnaissance drones failed to find them.
Nigerian forces backed by warplanes invaded the vast former colonial game reserve late last week as part of a push to win back territory from the group, according to Reuters.
The group, notorious for violence against civilians, controlled an area roughly the size of Belgium at the start of the year but has since been beaten back by Nigerian troops, backed by Chad, Niger and Cameroon.
In recent years Nigeria has been hit by a wave of terrorist attacks, most of which have been carried out by Boko Haram. Targets have included sports venues and schools teaching a secular curriculum.
Many women and children – including teenage girls – have been taken hostage by the group, which has carried out raids on schools and colleges, seeing them as a symbol of Western culture.
Boko Haram last month pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS) group.