Cameroon's government says the multinational joint forces fighting Boko Haram have arrested five leaders of the extremist group and freed dozens of women and children held captive.

Government spokesman Issa Tchiroma said Saturday that the raids targeted Boko Haram's bases in the Madawaya forest earlier this month.

He said the operation freed 28 children along with at least 18 women.

The spokesman said Boko Haram had set up camp in the forest after fleeing another military operation in neighboring Nigeria. He said the fighters had been training young girls and women as suicide bombers.

Boko Haram's nearly 7-year insurgency, which has launched attacks beyond Nigeria's borders into Cameroon, Chad and Niger, has killed at least 20,000 people, according to Amnesty International.