LAGOS, Nigeria – Nigeria's military says it has destroyed 10 Boko Haram camps, killed many militants and captured heavy weaponry in the northeastern Sambisa Forest.
This comes after a surge in attacks by the Islamic extremists including suicide bombings, assaults on a business school and villages and a repelled night-time raid by hundreds of fighters on the biggest military base in northeast Nigeria.
One soldier was killed by a land mine and two were wounded when troops overran 10 Boko Haram camps on Saturday, said the Defense Ministry spokesman, Maj. Gen. Chris Olukolade, in a statement Sunday night.
Olukolade and other Nigerian officials had said Boko Haram's main fighting force was trapped in the vast Sambisa Forest following a 14-week multinational offensive that drove them out of dozens of towns and villages where they had declared an Islamic caliphate.
But some must have escaped to press last week's attack on Giwa Barracks in Maiduguri, the biggest northeastern city about 125 miles from the forest.
The forest offensive had destroyed some 20 other camps, according to the military, before getting bogged down by land mines and other booby traps laid by the insurgents, soldiers told The Associated Press. They insisted on anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to reporters.
"The operation to clear the terrorists in Sambisa and other forests is continuing as troops in all fronts have been alerted to be on the lookout for fleeing terrorists," Olukolade said. "The Nigerian Air force is maintaining an active air surveillance to track the movement of terrorists for appropriate action."
The ground offensive, backed by bombing by jet fighters and covering fire from attack helicopters, had allowed the military to free some 700 girls and women captives. There has been no word on the fate of boys and young men kidnapped by Boko Haram.
The Defense Ministry has made no comment about the latest Boko Haram surge, which killed at least 60 civilians in the past 10 days, half of them villagers who died in army shelling to repulse the Maiduguri attack.