KANO, Nigeria – Nigeria's military has opened a camp to rehabilitate Boko Haram fighters who have surrendered and are repentant, according to a statement Wednesday that urged other fighters to abandon the Islamic insurgency that has claimed 20,000 lives in six years.
The military also said it has rescued 11,595 civilian hostages in attacks on Boko Haram camps and villages in the northeast of the West African nation since Feb. 26.
The rehabilitation camp will provide vocational training to help former fighters contribute meaningfully to economic growth, Defense Ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. Rabe Abubakar said in a statement. He gave few details and did not say how many fighters have surrendered. Previous statements said dozens of Boko Haram members have given themselves up this year and that many appeared emaciated and begged for food. That would indicate that the military is succeeding in cutting supply routes of the insurgency that has spread to neighboring countries.
Abubakar's statement appealed for other fighters to surrender and warned "the final onslaught against the remnant group of the terrorists would continue unabated and would not relent until the power of evil forces in the northeast is completely neutralized."
Analysts have said Nigeria's military does not have the capacity to hold the vast territory, and that while it may curb Boko Haram's uprising, low-level attacks likely will continue with suicide bombings of soft targets and deadly raids on remote villages. Government efforts to return some of the 2.8 million refugees forced from their homes by the insurgency have been stymied because the refugees say their areas are not safe from Boko Haram.
Abubakar did not say what has happened to a de-radicalization and rehabilitation program set up in at least two prisons by the previous administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, who lost 2015 elections to Muhammadu Buhari.