The Nigerian army has rescued 71 girls and women in firefights that killed several Boko Haram fighters in the country’s northeast, Al Jazeera reports.
The attack is a result of the government stepping up efforts to drive out the armed group.
The news agency adds that army spokesman Colonel IT Gusau said on Thursday that 12 people were rescued on Wednesday and 59 on Thursday from villages about 40km from Maiduguri, the biggest city in the northeast.
“During the operation a number of terrorists were killed,” said Gusau adding that a total of 29 women, 25 children and five elderly men were part of those freed.
It is reported that some of the captives have been in the clutches of the group for as long as a year.
One young woman, Yagana Kyari, told the Associated Press news agency that she was just “waiting for death” because the group had constantly threatened to kill their victims.
Hundreds of captives were further freed in March when Nigeria’s military declared it had seized back all towns held by Boko Haram, but the group continued to launch suicide bombings and attacks from remote villages.
Earlier this week, the army said it had freed 30 other hostages, including 21 children.
Boko Haram has abducted thousands of civilians, including children, in raids on villages and towns inside Nigeria and abroad, and the movement has also forced young teenage girls and women to become suicide bombers.
In just over a week, suicide bombers killed at least 47 people in attacks at crowded places, including a market and a popular bar, in towns in both Nigeria and neighbouring Cameroon.
News of the rescue operation come as Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s new government appointed a general to lead a new multinational task force to fight Boko Haram, Al Jazeera adds.
Major-General Iliya Abbah, who previously commanded military operations in the oil-rich Niger Delta, will head the five-nation force, Nigerian military spokesman Major General Chris Olukolade said.
The Multi-National Joint Task Force, made up of 8,700 troops from Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Benin, is expected to be more effective than a current alliance in the battle to end Boko Haram’s six-year insurgency, which has claimed some 15,000 lives.
Boko Haram has stepped up its attacks since Buhari took office in May, unleashing a wave of violence that has claimed more than 800 lives in just two months.
In another gruesome attack reported on Thursday, Boko Haram fighters slit the throats of 10 fishermen in villages on the shores of Lake Chad in northeastern Nigeria on Monday, a fisherman and a resident told AFP news agency.