Nigeria's military has captured the last known camp of the country's militant Islamic group Boko Haram, driving militants from their stronghold in the Sambisa Forest, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said Saturday. Buhari described the operation as the "final crushing of Boko Haram terrorists in their last enclave," adding it was news "long-awaited and most gratifying." Since 2009, the extremist group has killed an estimated 15,000 people in their push to establish an Islamic state within Nigeria's northeast.
"I was told by the Chief of Army Staff that the camp fell at about 1:35 p.m. on Friday, Dec.23, and that the terrorists are on the run and no longer have a place to hide," Buhari said in a statement. He commended the troops responsible for "finally entering and crushing the remnants of the Boko Haram insurgents," but warned against assuming the camp's capture would mean an immediate end to the bombings, assassinations, and kidnappings carried out by the Boko Haram. "This, no doubt, will go a long way in improving the security situation not only in the North East, but the country in general," Buhari said. "But we must not let our guards down."
Reuters has been unable to independently verify the Nigerian military's capture of the camp, which reportedly comes just a few weeks after Nigeria launched a large military offensive against the militants' last stronghold in the Sambisa Forest. According to the Guardian, Nigeria's military had begun to push Boko Haram militants out of their territory in the country's northeast following an offensive launched in February.
Sambisa Forest has long been a significant stronghold for Boko Haram and may be where the militant Islamic group held the more than 200 Chibok schoolgirls they kidnapped in 2014. At least 57 girls escaped in 2014, another was found earlier this year shortly before Boko Haram returned another 21 girls as part of a deal negotiated with Nigeria's government. It is unclear how many Chibok schoolgirls may still be imprisoned by the Boko Haram.
"Further efforts should be intensified to locate and free our remaining Chibok girls still in captivity," Buhari said Saturday, urging Nigeria's military to continue searching for the kidnapped schoolgirls as they drive Boko Haram militants out of Sambisa Forest.
According to the United Nations Office For The Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 1.8 million people are currently displaced from their homes within Nigeria due to the violent conflict sparked by Boko Haram.