Nigerian army 'destroys' Boko Haram camps in north-east

Senior officer Chris Olukolade said the camps were used to co-ordinate attacks on nearby local communities

The Nigerian army says it has destroyed a number of well-equipped camps used by the militant Islamist group, Boko Haram, in the north-east of Nigeria.

Senior officer Chris Olukolade revealed the extensive nature of the camps, which he said were used to co-ordinate attacks on nearby local communities.

The BBC has not been able to independently verify the army's claim.

Some 2,000 soldiers were deployed to the region last week, in the biggest campaign to date against Boko Haram.

On 14 May, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan gave security control to the military after declaring a state of emergency in the three north-eastern states where Boko Haram have been most active - Borno, Yobe and Adamawa.

At a news conference on Friday, Brigadier General Olukolade gave details of the military offensive, showing photos of what he said were hospital facilities and dormitories set up by the militants in the camps.

Photos included a destroyed fuel depot and what appeared to be bomb-making equipment, says the BBC's Mark Doyle.

"These camps were mini-enclaves from which the insurgents planned their operations and from there they attacked neighbouring communities, going to municipalities and returning there," Brig Gen Olukolade told the BBC.

"Most of their planning and activities was co-ordinated from these camps," he said.

Women and children 'freed'

Meanwhile, three women and six children abducted by Boko Haram have been freed, the authorities said on Friday.

According to Brig Gen Olukolade, the group were abducted on 7 May during an attack by the militants on the north-east town of Bama.

"Efforts of the troops' operation around the Sambisa forest resulted in freedom for nine of the women and children that were held hostage in that camp," he told journalists.

Two children and one woman remain missing, he added.

Those rescued from the Sambisa forest were among the kidnap victims who appeared in a recent propaganda video for Boko Haram, which featured its leader, Abubakar Shekau, the military says.

In the video, Shekau claims he is holding women and children in retaliation for the wives and children of Boko Haram militants held by the military, AFP news agency reports.

However, earlier this week President Goodluck Jonathan ordered the release of all women held in connection with "terrorist activity".

The decision was aimed at enhancing peace efforts, the defence ministry said.

More than 2,000 people have died in violence in Nigeria since Boko Haram launched its insurgency in 2009 to create an Islamic state.

The group, whose name means "Western education is forbidden", says its quest is to overthrow the Nigerian government and create an Islamic state.

There has been growing concern that Boko Haram could be receiving backing from al-Qaeda-linked militants in other countries.

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