Maiduguri, Nigeria – Security forces in Nigeria have launched airstrikes against encampments of the Islamist militia Boko Haram as part of a major military operation in the country’s northeast, military officials said Friday.
The airstrikes hit one of the main rebel bases, in the Sambisa Forest Reserve south of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, according to military officials cited by news agencies.
The Nigerian military have also sent several thousand soldiers to the area in recent days.
Brig. Gen. Chris Olukolade told the Agence France-Presse news service Friday that the air attacks began two days ago. Fighter jets and helicopter gunships are involved in the operation. It was not clear how many people, including Boko Haram fighters, died in the attacks.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan announced a state of emergency in three northeastern states Tuesday after attempts to negotiate an amnesty and peace deal with Boko Haram failed. He said Nigeria was facing a “war” by the rebels. However, Jonathan also declared a state of emergency in 2011 and beefed up forces then, with little effect.
Political prisoners pardoned before visit
Yangon, Myanmar – Myanmar’s president pardoned at least 20 political prisoners Friday, just ahead of an historic state visit to the United States that will highlight the two sides’ improved relations brought about by the former pariah nation’s democratic reforms.
Ye Aung, a member of the government’s political prisoner scrutiny committee, said 20 prisoners had been freed so far Friday, with more releases expected. The exact number to be released was unclear, though a former prisoner who tracks releases, Ba Myo Thein, said he had heard that at least 32 would be freed.
President Thein Sein will visit the White House on Monday, the first state visit by a Myanmar leader in almost 47 years.
The U.S. applied sanctions against Myanmar’s previous military regime for its poor human rights record. Thein Sein has implemented several reforms since his election in 2010, including freeing hundreds of political prisoners. The U.S. in turn eased most sanctions. Last November, Barack Obama became the first U.S. president to visit Myanmar.
A group campaigning for democracy in Myanmar – which is also known by its old name, Burma – accuses Thein Sein’s government of using political prisoners for public relations purposes.