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Nigerian army rescues more women, girls from Boko Haram

April 29, 2015: A Nigerian soldier stands next to woman and children that were allegedly rescued by the Nigerian Military after being taken by Islamic extremists in Sambisa Forest, Nigeria.

April 29, 2015: A Nigerian soldier stands next to woman and children that were allegedly rescued by the Nigerian Military after being taken by Islamic extremists in Sambisa Forest, Nigeria.  (AP)

Nigeria’s military  rescued 234 more girls and women from a Boko Haram stronghold in a forest in the northeast part of the country, it announced on social media Saturday.

It brings the number of females declared rescued this week to more than 677.

"FLASH: Another set of 234 women and children were rescued through the Kawuri and Konduga end of the #Sambisa Forest on Thursday," said a message on the official Twitter account of the Nigerian Defence Headquarters posted early Saturday.

The rescue comes as the army deployed ground troops following weeks of punishing air raids on the Sambisa Forest.

President Goodluck Jonathan, whose term ends this month, said Thursday that the forest is the last holdout of the Islamic militants and he pledged to "hand over a Nigeria completely free of terrorist strongholds."

It is unclear how many girls, women, boys and men Boko Haram has kidnapped during its six-year rebellion. Nigeria's army has only reported rescuing only females.

The Associated Press reported that some women shot at their rescuers and were killed as Boko Haram used them as an armed human shield for its main fighting force.

The terror group continues to attack in isolated places. The governor of the province in neighboring Niger has ordered residents of Lake Chad to evacuate Monday, when government officials said troops will flush militants from hideouts.

Nigeria's military says it has flown in medical and intelligence teams to screen the rescued girls and women and find out their identities. Army spokesman Col. Sani Usman said most are traumatized.

It is still not known if any are the students kidnapped from a boarding school in Chibok town a year ago — a mass kidnapping that outraged much of the world.

A counselor who has helped rehabilitate women held captive by Boko Haram told The Associated Press that some have identified with the extremist ideology after months of captivity and forced marriages. 

Some of the freed women and girls are pregnant, Muhammad Gavi, a spokesman for a self-defense group that fights the terror group said.

Amnesty International called on authorities "to ensure that the trauma of those 'rescued' is not exacerbated by lengthy security screening in detention."

The Nigerian military Friday released photos of about 20 subdued-looking children and women they said were taken between Tuesday and Thursday in the Sambisa Forest. They look generally healthy but at least one child looks emaciated and some children have the orange-colored hair signaling severe malnutrition.

A young military medic with blue rubber gloves and a surgical mask appears to be checking several children.

The Associated Press contributed to this report