Nigerian troops rescued an additional 160 women and children from Boko Haram days after they found hundreds of other hostages, the military said Thursday. "We are still working to verify the actual number of the rescued hostages, but I can say they include around 60 women and 100 children," said army spokesman Sani Usman.
A female hostage and a soldier were killed during the rescue operation at Sambisa Forest, where the Islamist extremists operate from. Troops are moving into other parts of the forest and have destroyed nine militant camps, the spokesman said.
"Many of those kidnapped have undergone psychological trauma and indoctrination," he said.
The rescue announced Thursday comes the same week the military said it found hostages in a different operation in the same forest. Shortly after troops saved 200 girls and 93 women Tuesday, Usman said they were not the Chibok girls whose abduction last year sparked worldwide outrage.
But officials say it's too early to tell who they are. Those rescued Tuesday are still in "operational areas and not yet cleared for accessibility by health workers," the national emergency management agency said. The agency has sent basic food and sanitary supplies, said agency spokesman Manzo Ezekiel.
The April 2014 mass abduction in Chibok sparked a social media movement, #BringBackOurGirls. Islamist militant group Boko Haram has been blamed for years of kidnappings and is thought to be holding hundreds hostage. In recent weeks, troops and vigilantes have moved into Sambisa Forest and raided Boko Haram camps.
Information about the fate of the kidnapped schoolgirls has been spotty and inconsistent, with some schools giving conflicting figures for the number of girls who were abducted or escaped their captors. 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.
Rights groups applauded the rescues, but they urged troops to ensure the victims get the support they need.
"This development is just cause for celebration and undoubtedly an immense relief to the women, girls and their families. But this is just the tip of the iceberg; there are thousands more women and girls, and men and boys who have been abducted by Boko Haram," said Netsanet Belay, Africa director at Amnesty International.
More than 2,000 women and girls have been abducted by Boko Haram since last year, according to Amnesty.