The Nigerian military said Tuesday that it had freed more than 300 people held by Boko Haram in its Sambisa forest stronghold. A news release said that eight men, 138 women, and 192 children were rescued and at least 30 Boko Haram fighters killed.
“The unit... rescued 338 persons that were held captive by the terrorists,” the army said, during a raid targeting “suspected Boko Haram terrorist camps at Bulajilin and Manawashe villages.”
Photos released by the army of the freed captives mostly show women, some carrying babies, Agence France-Presse reports. It’s not known whether any of those freed include the 200 school girls kidnapped in April of last year.
Several experts on Nigeria and Boko Haram were skeptical about the military’s assertions on Wednesday, saying the announcement could be part of a propaganda war, or mere fiction offered as a morale lift for citizens worn down by the devastating tactics of the militants. On Tuesday night, for example, Boko Haram was accused of looting and burning a village in southeastern Niger near the Nigerian border, killing 14 people, according to Reuters.
“The trust issue comes from a legacy of poor communication from the armed forces over Boko Haram activity,” said Elizabeth Donnelly, assistant head of the Africa program for Chatham House, an independent policy research group in London, and an expert on Boko Haram.
She said Boko Haram had been roaming through rural parts of the nation that prove easy places for the militants to operate. “The fact of the matter is, there are a lot of people being held,” Ms. Donnelly said. “It’s not unlikely the military is coming across people” it can free as it hunts Boko Haram.