The Nigerian army said Thursday its troops have cleared more Boko Haram hideouts in northeast Borno state and have rescued 195 hostages. Spokesman Col. Sani Usman said troops ambushed the Islamic militants Wednesday night as they emerged from the vast Sambisa forest, Boko Haram’s last stronghold.
A number of the Boko Haram fighters were killed during the operation and a few others fled wounded on motorcycles. The Nigerian army recovered various weapons and equipment during the operation, including a six motorcycles, several improvised explosive devices, a rifle and food supplies.
“The recovered items clearly shows [sic] that the terrorists were out for a nefarious mission which was aborted by the timely ambushes,” Usman said in a press release Thursday.
— Nigerian Army (@HQNigerianArmy) February 18, 2016
Boko Haram launched a brutal insurgency in northeast Nigeria almost seven years ago. Since then, the Sunni extremist group has killed some 20,000 people and displaced more than 2 million. Although Boko Haram is based in Nigeria, its fighters have launched deadly attacks in neighboring countries including Niger, Chad and Cameroon.
Boko Haram has overtaken the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, as the world’s deadliest terrorist organization by killing 6,644 people in 2014 alone, according to the Global Terrorism Index, published by the Institute for Economics and Peace, a global think tank headquartered in Sydney.
West African neighbors Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon formed a coalition to fight Boko Haram in May 2014 and launched the first offensive in late January 2015. The Nigeria-led coalition has since been upgraded to an 8,700-strong joint task force that now includes Benin.
The Nigerian army regularly reports military successes against Boko Haram, such as clearing out camps and rescuing hostages, and President Muhammadu Buhari claimed in December Nigeria had “technically won the war” because the militants were reduced to fighting in their last stronghold, Sambisa forest, in Boko Haram’s heartland of Borno state.
Even so, political experts and terrorism analysts said Boko Haram has not yet been defeated and the group is adapting its tactics in response to the regional offenses. Boko Haram may no longer physically control large swaths of territory, but the militants are continuing to launch deadly attacks.
Nigerian officials said the group razed the northeast village of Dalori on Jan. 30, burning children alive and killing at least 86 people. Last week, two female suicide bombers reportedly killed more than 60 people at a camp for internally displaced persons in the northeast town of Dikwa. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, but it bore the hallmarks of Boko Haram, which frequently uses women and girls as bombers to strike targets.