Kano, Nigeria (CNN) Nigerian troops rescued an additional 160 women and children from Boko Haram within days after they found hundreds of other hostages, the military said Thursday. “We are still working to verify the actual number of the rescued hostages, but I can say they include around 60 women and 100 children,” said army spokesman Sani Usman.
Troops are moving into other parts of the forest and have destroyed nine militant camps, the spokesman said. “Many of those kidnapped have undergone psychological trauma and indoctrination,” he said.
Second rescue in a week
The rescue announced Thursday came the same week the military said it rescued another group of hostages in a different operation in the same forest. Shortly after troops saved 200 girls and 93 women Tuesday, Usman said they were not the Chibok girls whose abduction last year sparked worldwide outrage. It was not immediately clear if any of those rescued in the most recent operation are among the Chibok girls.
That mass abduction of more than 200 girls in April 2014 from a school in the northeastern Nigerian town of Chibok sparked a social media movement, #BringBackOurGirls. There’s been no sign of them since. Last year, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau not only bragged about abducting the girls, but said he would “sell them in the market” like slaves.
Usman said the 160 figure for the latest batch of rescues is “an estimation, because more are coming in as operations continue.”
As to their backstories, the Nigerian army spokesman added, “Some of them are psychologically disturbed and giving contrary information due to trauma, so we can’t say where they’re from yet.”
Those rescued Tuesday were at least initially in “operational areas and not yet cleared for accessibility by health workers,” according to Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency. Officials have sent basic food and sanitary supplies, said agency spokesman Manzo Ezekiel.
Victims need support
Such mass rescues have been rare, though kidnappings unfortunately have not been, thanks to Boko Haram. But the Islamist militant group has been on the defensive in recent weeks, as troops and vigilantes have moved into Sambisa Forest and raided its camps.
Boko Haram has said its aim is to impose a stricter enforcement of Sharia law across Nigeria, which is split between a majority Muslim north and a mostly Christian south. Rights groups applauded the rescues, but they urged troops to ensure the victims get the support they need.
“This development is just cause for celebration and undoubtedly an immense relief to the women, girls and their families. But this is just the tip of the iceberg; there are thousands more women and girls, and men and boys who have been abducted by Boko Haram,” said Netsanet Belay, Africa director at Amnesty International.
More than 2,000 women and girls have been abducted by Boko Haram since last year, according to Amnesty International.