Nigeria’s army rescued 148 hostages, most of them women and children, from Boko Haram militants, the army said Monday.
Soldiers rescued the hostages during an operation Sunday as members of the terror group fled “troops’ onslaught in the Lake Chad Islands and fringes of the northern borders of Borno state,” according to a statement.
The captives were freed in the large but remote town of Bama, about 45 miles southeast of Maiduguri. Borno state in northeast Nigeria borders Niger, Chad and Cameroon, all of which have experienced violent incidents with Boko Haram.
Seventy-five children, 58 women and 15 men comprised the rescued group, the army said. There were two pregnant teenagers among the hostages.
The women told their rescuers they were “sexually violated and used as sex slaves,” while the men were forced to carry out labor, the army statement said.
The freed hostages will be transported to a Bama camp for internally displaced people, the army said.
Last month, the army freed 1,000 hostages after a weeklong battle with Boko Haram that left 50 militants dead, according to an army spokesman. That battle also unfolded in Borno state.
Boko Haram militants mainly inhabit areas in the northern states of Nigeria, specifically Yobe, Kano, Bauchi, Borno and Kaduna. The group has kidnapped more than 1,000 children in Nigeria since 2013, according to a recent report.
The group sparked global outrage after militants seized 276 girls from a boarding school in Borno’s Chibok town in 2014. Some of the girls were freed last year following negotiations between the government and Boko Haram.
In April, the Nigerian government said a disagreement between members of the terror group had caused a breakdown in negotiations for the release of the remaining schoolgirls.