Nigerian army 'rescues 200 girls' from Boko Haram stronghold
The hostages are still being identified, and it is unclear if they are the missing schoolgirls from Chibok
The Nigerian army says it has rescued 200 girls and 93 women from a Boko Haram stronghold in the north of the country, as part of a major ongoing operation.
It remains unclear if any of the victims are among those abducted from Chibok last year, as conflicting reports emerge from the Nigerian military.
The captives are going through a "screening process to find out where they are from", reports Al Jazeera's Yvonne Ndege. The Nigerian military believes some of the women may be wives of Boko Haram fighters and is "not ruling out the possibility that some are from the Chibok school", she says.
However, it has been reported that a different military spokesperson told the Associated Press that they "are not the Chibok girls". The women and girls, who were rescued from the Sambisa Forest in the northeast of the country, are currently being interviewed by police and the military.
A community leader from Chibok said he was "working hard to verify" if any of the girls were among those kidnapped from his village. "His comments reflected a distrust of the military, which has published many misstatements about the girls," says Al Jazeera.
It is estimated that the Islamist militants have captured more than 500 women and girls since they began their violent insurgency in 2009. The largest single abduction occurred when 276 schoolgirls were taken from Chibok in April last year, causing global outrage and sparking an international campaign to rescue them. Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau vowed to "marry them off" or sell them as slaves.
In recent months, the Nigerian military has made significant gains against the Islamist group, taking back swathes of territory in the north. But the groups' deadly attacks continue, with civilians bearing the brunt of the violence. Hundreds of decomposing bodies, including those of women and children, were discovered in shallow graves after the military recaptured the city of Damasak last week.
Boko Haram's rebellion, and the military offensive against it, has killed more than 15,500 people since 2012, according to the BBC. The ability to tackle the insurgency will be the true test of newly elected President Muhammadu Buhari, who assumes power next month.