- Military spokesman: Operation targeted Boko Haram camps in Nigeria's Sambisa Forest
- The rescued women and children were airlifted to safety, the spokesman says
Maj. Gen. Chris Olukolade, a Nigerian military spokesman, said that those rescued were airlifted out of Sambisa Forest. It was not immediately clear if they were held captive or simply in danger from the Islamist extremist group, whose reign of terror in Nigeria's northeastern states has grown in intensity over the past six years.
Even if they had been hostages, the women and children only represent tiny fraction against those taken by Boko Haram. Amnesty International reports the group has abducted more than 2,000 women and girls in just the past year.
The military victory hardly signals Boko Haram's death knell. It has time and again has proven its ruthlessness, resilience and power in the region. But Nigeria's military has claimed that its made significant inroads against the terrorist group in recent months, including several instances involving the rescue of people.
Friday's military assault came in Sambisa Forest, a vast onetime game reserve has become a Boko Haram stronghold in northeast Nigeria. Along with killing scores of militants, Nigerian troops destroyed two major ammunition dumps, an armored tank, 70 motorcycles and more than 10 other vehicles.
The operation is ongoing, the military spokesman said, with "air and artillery bombardment of identified terrorist camps and locations" in the Sambisa Forest area.
Boko Haram has said its aim is to impose a stricter enforcement of Sharia law across Nigeria, which is split between a majority Muslim north and a mostly Christian south.
Its tactics have made it one of the most reviled terrorist groups in the world. Boko Haram fighters have bombed civilian-rich targets such as marketplaces, churches and mosques and conducted mass kidnappings -- the most notorious being the taking last year of more than 200 girls
from a school in northeastern city of Chibok. The fate of those girls remains a mystery.