Nigeria rescues 178 hostages from Boko Haram

Rescue follows mlitary shake-up mid July

The Nigerian army says it has rescued 178 people from the Islamist militants Boko Haram in the country's northern Borno state, according to a statement released on 2 August.

The army said that 101 of the captives it freed were children, 67 were women, and ten were men. It is not yet known if the rescued hostages include some of the girls abducted from a school in Chibok in April 2014.

The military has also confirmed that it captured a Boko Haram commander and that several rebel camps have been cleared.

The news comes several days after Nigeria appointed a new general to head the multinational army tasked with combatting Boko Haram. Major General Iliyasu Isah Abbah fills the post left by Tukur Yusuf Burati who was recently appointed as head of the Nigerian army. Abbah now leads the 8,700-strong four-nation army based in N'Djamena, the capital of Chad. The special task force includes soldiers from the armies of Nigeria and neighbouring Niger, Chad and Cameroon.

In mid-July Nigeria's new president Muhammadu Buhari reorganised his country's military, sacking the chiefs of the army, navy and airforce, and nominating a new team to tackle the Boko Haram insurgency.

Buhari, who ruled Nigeria under a military regime from 1983 to 1985, has taken a strong line against the militants since his inauguration as president in May.

His predecessor Goodluck Jonathan faced international criticism over Nigeria's handling of the Boko Haram crisis, particularly its failure to locate the missing Chibok schoolgirls.

In late April the army rescued some 300 girls and women from a stronghold of Boko Haram, which is responsbile for killing 20,000 people and displacing about two million in its quest to carve out an Islamist state in northern Nigeria.

Since the start of 2014 Boko Haram has killed some 5,500 civilians and abducted at least 2,000 women and girls in Nigeria, according to the human rights organisation Amnesty International.