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Women, girls freed from Boko Haram in Nigeria

Rescued women and children arrive Thursday at the military office in Maiduguri, Nigeria. (Associated Press)
Rescued women and children arrive Thursday at the military office in Maiduguri, Nigeria. (Associated Press)
Michelle Faul Associated Press

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria – Nigerian soldiers rescued 71 people, almost all girls and women, in firefights that killed many Boko Haram militants in villages near the northeastern city of Maiduguri, the military said Thursday.

Some captives told the Associated Press they were in the clutches of the Islamic extremists for as long as a year.

“I was waiting for death … they often threatened to kill us,” said Yagana Kyari, a woman in her 20s who said she had been kidnapped from her village of Kawuri and taken to a militant camp in Walimberi, about 25 miles southeast of Maiduguri, the biggest city in the northeast and the birthplace of Boko Haram.

Kyari said they often went hungry because the extremists never provided enough food.

Fifty-nine people, all women and children except for five elderly men, were freed Thursday, Col. I.T. Gusau said. Another 12 women and girls were rescued Wednesday from Kilakisa, 55 miles southwest of Maiduguri, he said.

The military has said hundreds of captives were freed in March when they declared they had seized back all towns held by Boko Haram, which last year had declared an Islamic caliphate in a large swath of the northeast. But deadly attacks have increased in recent weeks.

Nigeria’s homegrown Islamic group drew international outrage with the April 2014 kidnapping of nearly 300 schoolgirls from the remote northeastern town of Chibok. Many of them escaped on their own, but 219 still are missing.

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