MAIDUGURI, Nigeria – A day after the Nigerian army celebrated the rescue of 200 girls and 93 women in the forest stronghold of Boko Haram, the army's spokesman said more women and children believed to have been abducted by the Islamic extremists were rescued as firefights broke out there.
Several lives were lost including that of a soldier and a woman during shootouts in nine separate extremist camps in the Sambisa Forest, according to a statement late Wednesday from Col. Sani Usman. He said eight women sustained gunshot wounds and four soldiers were seriously injured.
Some of the females who were freed earlier have been so transformed by their captivity that they opened fire on their rescuers, authorities have said. A veteran counselor said Wednesday they would need intensive psychological treatment.
The army spokesman said several Boko Haram field commanders and foot soldiers were killed and combat tanks and munitions of high caliber used by Boko Haram were recovered while others were destroyed.
"The troops have also rescued additional women and children," the statement said, without saying how many were rescued. "They have been evacuated to a safety zone for further processing."
The military was flying in medical and intelligence teams to evaluate the former captives, many of whom were severely traumatized, Usman said earlier.
It remained unclear if any of the schoolgirls kidnapped from the northeastern town of Chibok a year ago were to be among the 200 girls and 93 women whose rescue was announced on Tuesday.
The plight of the schoolgirls, who have become known as "the Chibok girls," aroused international outrage and a campaign for their release under the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. Their kidnapping brought Boko Haram, whose nickname means "Western education is forbidden" in the local Hausa language, to the world's attention. Of the Chibok girls, 219 remain missing.
Nigerian military and counter-insurgency spokesmen have said they have information indicating at least some of the Chibok girls still are being held in the Sambisa Forest.A counselor who has treated other women freed from Boko Haram captivity said some had become indoctrinated into believing the group's Islamic extremist ideology, while others had established strong emotional attachments to militants they had been forced to marry.
Some of the about 90 women and girls freed by the army four months ago in Yobe state, for example, had upset their community on their return by maintaining that the militants were good people who had treated them well, said the counselor, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he has been targeted by the militants in the past.
"The trauma suffered by the (abducted) women and girls is truly horrific," said Amnesty International's Africa director for research and advocacy, Netsanet Belay. "Some have been repeatedly raped, sold into sexual slavery or indoctrinated and even forced to fight for Boko Haram."
Amnesty International said earlier this month that at least 2,000 women and girls have been taken by Boko Haram since the start of 2014.