LAGOS/NIAMEY • Nigerian troops have rescued 338 people, mainly women and children, held by Boko Haram militants around the group's Sambisa forest stronghold in the restive north-east, the army said.
"The (army) unit ... rescued 338 persons that were held captive by the terrorists," the army said yesterday of the Tuesday operation, adding that 192 of the survivors were children and 138 women.
The raid targeted "suspected Boko Haram terrorist camps at Bulajilin and Manawashe villages" on the edge of the Sambisa forest, the army said in a statement, adding that troops killed 30 suspected militants and seized a cache of arms and ammunition.
The Nigerian military has in recent months claimed a string of successes against Boko Haram in its quest to end the hardline Islamist group's six-year insurgency.
The air force said in a statement on Tuesday it had launched strikes on the group's vehicle and fuel depots "in a renewed drive to further degrade" its assets.
Air force chief Sadique Abubakar was quoted as saying the strikes were helping to "pave the way for the final onslaught" by Nigerian ground forces.
President Muhammadu Buhari, who came to power in May on a pledge to crush Boko Haram, has given his military commanders until the end of December to defeat the group, whose insurgency has killed at least 17,000 people and forced more than 2.5 million to flee their homes since 2009.
However, the group is digging in its heels and spreading terror to neighbouring Niger.
Suspected Boko Haram militants killed at least 14 people in an overnight attack on a village in south-eastern Niger, security sources said yesterday.
"They executed at least 14 civilians," said one of the sources, referring to the village of Ala in the Diffa region near the Nigerian border.
A second security source said that the assailants had looted the village and then set fire to the houses. Niger's army is pursuing the militants, he added.
Niger's Diffa region has suffered dozens of cross-border attacks this year by Boko Haram, whose stronghold in north-east Nigeria lies just a few kilometres away.
Parliament on Tuesday approved a law extending a 15-day state of emergency for Diffa by three months in a bid to boost security.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS