…Parents’ hope dashed
A wave of excitement swept through the land last night when the military announced that they had rescued 200 girls and 93 women from the Sambisa Forest. The huge widely uncultivated forest is believed to be the last major stronghold of Boko Haram in Borno State.
The Defence Headquarters (DHQ) broke the news in three quick tweets on its tweeter handle.
The excitement was sparked by the feeling that the Chibok girls could be among the freed.
The DHQ said: “Troops this afternoon rescued 200 girls & 93 women from Sambisa Forest. We cannot confirm if the #ChibokGirls are in this group.
“Troops captured and destroyed 3 terrorists’ camps, including the notorious Tokumbere camp in the Sambisa Forest operation.
“The freed persons are now being screened and profiled; details later.”
The rescue of the girls and women raised the hope that they might be the 219 pupils of the Chibok Girls Secondary School, Borno State, whose kidnapping 379 days ago attracted worldwide outrage.
But the hope was dashed as the army, in a statement, said those rescued were not the Chibok girls.
Director of Defence Information Maj-Gen. Chris Olukolade said: “I can only confirm the rescue this afternoon of 200 girls and 93 women in different camps in the forest.
“We are yet to determine their origin as all the freed persons are now being screened and profiled. Please don’t misquote me on their origin. We will provide more details later.”
A top military source gave an insight into the operation that led to the rescue. He said: “This operation was mainly carried out by Nigerian troops; none of the multinational forces was involved.
“Those liberated from Sambisa Forest have been moved to a military camp established as a transit camp. Many of them are receiving medication as I am talking to you.
“One obvious thing we have discovered so far is that many of them had been traumatised and psychologically disturbed. We are already interacting with them.
Another source said: “Many Boko Haram members were killed in the encounters between troops and the insurgents in Sambisa Forest before the 293 women could be set free. We will release figures and appropriate photographs after preliminary mop up operation.
“Most of the Boko Haram commanders are also on the run but we will get them wherever they go.
“The operation in Sambisa Forest is ongoing because intelligence report indicated that there could be up to 50 camps in the area.”
PRNigeria, a military information strategist, said: “At least three major terrorists camps have been destroyed in the well-coordinated attacks that include the destruction of the notorious Tokumbere camp in the Sambisa Forest.”
A senior military source said: “The Chibok girls are not among rescued hostages. Those rescued are persons recently kidnapped from Damboa and Gwoza. They were all rescued in one of the four camps inside the Sambisa Forest.
The Military is hopeful that more hostages will be rescued alive from the remaining three camps.”
The army’s statement, signed by the acting Director Army Public Relations, Col. Sani Kukasheka Usman, said: “This is to inform you that our gallant troops have been making progress in the desired aim of ridding the nation of terrorists and their sanctuaries.
“It is heartwarming to inform you that today; troops continued the offensive and cleared four key terrorists’ camps in Sambisa forest, Borno State.
“So far, they have destroyed and cleared Sassa, Tokumbere & two other camps in the general area of Alafa, all within the Sambisa forest.
“The troops rescued 200 abducted girls (not Chibok girls) and 93 women. They are at present being processed.
“Similarly, a number of equipment and weapons have been captured. We will send further details and photographs soon.”
Before the army’s statement, former Minister of Education Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, one of the leaders of the BringBackOur Girls campaigners, in a tweet said:
“We rejoice for news of rescue of several of our female citizens from Sambisa Forest by our Military, according to DefenceInfoNG.”
She also told our correspondent: “Our hearts are palpitating and we can’t wait to see if the rescued ladies are actually our girls. We are waiting to hear from the military but the number is so close.”
…Parents’ hope dashed