Nigerian army rescues 200 girls and 93 women

Rescue mission part of ongoing campaign against Boko Haram

The Nigerian army says it has rescued almost 300 girls and women from a stronghold of the Islamist militant group Boko Haram, however it said these do not include the more than 200 teenage girls abducted from a school in Chibok just over one year ago.

The military confirmed on 28 April that it had rescued 200 girls and 93 women from the Sambisa forest in north-eastern Nigeria. The news comes in the final weeks of Nigeria's outgoing president Goodluck Jonathan's term of office, and exactly one month before the inauguration of the country's newly-elected president Muhammadu Buhari, the former military head of state who ruled Nigeria from 1983 to 1985.

Over the last year Jonathan has faced sustained pressure, both nationally and internationally, over his handling of the crisis posed by Boko Haram whose attacks occur mainly in the north of the country. Jonathan endured particularly harsh criticism over Nigeria's failure to locate the missing Chibok schoolgirls, although the army is said to be moving into the Sambisa forest, where the girls are thought to be held captive, as part of an ongoing operation.

Assisted by military help from neighbouring countries, it is believed that Nigerian security forces are slowly turning the tide against Boko Haram, regaining control of most of the territory previously occupied by the rebels.

A number of courts martial against indiscipline in the armed forces as well as the election of a military man as head of state may also have boosted morale in the Nigerian army.

Boko Haram has been blamed for multiple gun and bomb attacks in villages, schools and churches, killing thousands since 2009 when the insurgents began their armed campaign to impose Islamic law in northern Nigeria.

The conflict has displaced at least 1.5 million people, and resulted in more than 2,000 deaths in 2014. In the run-up to the recent election, the incoming president and military strongman Buhari made defeating the militants a central plank of his campaign, along with ending widespread corruption throughout the country.

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