Nigeria moves 275 Boko Haram hostages to relief camp

Nigeria’s military authorities on Sunday moved 275 women and children to a relief camp, days after rescuing them from Boko Haram’s stronghold in the Sambisa forest, the state-run emergency agency said.

The freed hostages, among almost 700 women and children rescued from Boko Haram’s clutches last week, had been traumatised and malnourished by their ordeal, the military said.

They were taken to the camp in Yola for profiling, counselling and rehabilitation.

“The 23 Armoured Brigade of the Nigerian Army based in Yola, Adamawa State, has handed over 275 rescued women and children from the insurgents in Sambisa forest to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) for rehabilitation,” the agency said in a statement.

NEMA chief Muhammad Sani Sidi said the agency had made the necessary arrangements for trauma counselling and other forms of assistance to enable the hostages to recover and return to normal life.

Sani Datti, the spokesman for the agency, told AFP that some of the women and children had been injured in the rescue operation and were being treated in hospital.

“Eight women and 15 children have been taken to the hospital for treatment for injuries they sustained during the rescue operation,” he said.

He also said the personal details of the hostages had been recorded.

“Their personal data, including names, age, and place of origin were taken,” he said.

He said most of the hostages were traumatised by their ordeal in Boko Haram camps.

“Most of them looked tired and traumatised. They were unkempt. From their looks they haven’t had a bath for days,” he said.

The women and children were provided with food, mattresses, blankets, mosquito nets, soap and detergents.

Nigerian troops rescued almost 700 hostages from their captives in Sambisa forest between Tuesday and Thursday last week, promising to go on and free all those still in captivity.

The defence quarters said in a statement on Sunday that 260 women and children who were stranded after fleeing from Boko Haram had been located in Adamawa state.

“They have now been conveyed back to their various communities in Madagali after undergoing the normal security profiling,” spokesman Chris Olukolade said.

“Some of them disclosed that they had to abandon their homes to escape from the terrorists when Madagali came under attack, while others were actually abducted,” he said.

He said a number of insurgents were killed and wounded while some weapons, motorcycles and bicycles were recovered.

According to Amnesty International Boko Haram has seized about 2,000 women and girls since the start of last year.

Female former hostages have described being subjected to forced labour and sexual and psychological abuse as well as sometimes having to fight on the frontline alongside the rebels.

The military has released a series of photographs purporting to show some of the rescued women and children at an undisclosed location, huddled on the ground watched over by soldiers.

It was still not clear if any of the 219 girls snatched in April 2014 from their school in the northeastern town of Chibok were among the freed hostages.

The military said they were still screening the freed hostages with a view to establishing their identities.

The mass kidnapping in Chibok prompted global outrage and forced President Goodluck Jonathan to accept international help in the search operation for the missing girls.

Jonathan has come under severe criticism for not doing enough to secure the release of the Chibok girls as well as end the six-year-old Boko Haram insurgency that has claimed some 15,000 lives and forced at least 1.5 million people to flee their homes.

Many analysts believe the protracted Boko Haram uprising was partly responsible for Jonathan’s defeat in the March 28 presidential election to former military ruler Mohammadu Buhari.

Buhari, who is due to assume office on May 29, has vowed to crush the militants who want to create a hardline Islamic state in northeast Nigeria.

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