Nigerian Troops Arrest 400 Persons Linked With Boko Haram In Lake Chad
Nigerian soldiers have arrested more than 400 people associated with the Boko Haram extremist group hiding on the islands of Lake Chad, including fighters, wives and children.
The two-week operation, that included air and ground offences, netted the largest number of arrests of Boko Haram fighters in recent months in north-east Nigeria, said Nigerian Colonel Onyema Nwachukwu.
The military said many Boko Haram insurgents were killed, but it did not give details.
Among those arrested were 167 Boko Haram fighters, 67 women and 173 children.
The women and children will be sent to displacement camps after investigation, the military said.
Another 57 insurgents were arrested during a separate operation in another part of the troubled region.
Boko Haram has been blamed for more than 20,000 deaths during its eight-year insurgency, which has spilled over into neighbouring countries and created a vast humanitarian crisis with millions displaced and hungry.
Human rights groups have expressed concern about the large number of women and children who have been arrested in the fight against Boko Haram, saying most of those detained have been picked up at random and without reasonable suspicion.
In an effort to relieve overcrowded military detention facilities, Nigeria’s Government opened a trial in October for more than 1,600 suspected Boko Haram members behind closed doors at a military barracks.
It was the largest mass trial in the Islamic extremist group’s history.
While Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari declared late last year that the extremist group had been “crushed”, leader Abubakar Shekau remains elusive and the group in recent months has carried out a growing number of deadly suicide bombings and other attacks.
Many have been carried out by women or children who were abducted and indoctrinated.
Earlier this week, dozens of Nigerian state governors approved the transfer of $US1 billion ($1.3 billion) to aid the federal government’s fight against Boko Haram, signalling that the announcements of victory over the extremists had come too soon.
Earlier this month, Nigeria replaced the military commander of the campaign against Boko Haram after half a year in the post.
Military sources said that came after a series of “embarrassing” attacks by the Islamists.