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Nigeria frees more than 800 Boko Haram hostages

While hundreds of hostages were freed in one Nigerian state, more than a dozen new hostages were seized in a neighboring state. The Nigerian military began making gains against the militants last year.

Watch video 02:18

Nigeria's fight against terror

Nigerian military troops freed more than 800 hostages held by Boko Haram militants in several villages across the country's violence-racked northeast.

The captives were all held in Nigeria's Borno state, which borders Chad and Niger. At least 520 were freed in the village of Kusumma, and 300 more from 11 other villages that were controlled by the militants.

"The gallant troops cleared the remnants of the Boko Haram terrorists hibernating in Kala Balge general area," army spokesman Sani Usman said in a statement, adding that 22 "terrorists" were killed.

During the second raid, on the 11 other villages, at least three more Islamists were killed and one was captured.

Usman said that guns, axes and a motorcycle were also recovered during the raids.

The good news, however, was

undercut by reports that militants had abducted more than a dozen women

in the neighboring state of Adamawa.

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"We received report of the kidnap of 14 women and two girls by gunmen believed to be Boko Haram insurgents near Sabon Garin Madagali village," said Adamawa state police spokesman Othman Abubakar.

More women abducted

The women, who had been searching for firewood and fishing in a nearby river, were taken into the bush despite having been escorted by two vigilantes.

"When the civilian vigilantes escorting the women saw the heavily armed Boko Haram fighters advancing on them, they fled, leaving the women to their fate," said Madagali resident Garba Barnabas.

But two women managed to escape by jumping into the river and pretending to have drowned. They managed to return to their village and report the abductions.

Watch video 02:31

Boko Haram refugees face hostility in Yola

Thousands of women and girls have been kidnapped in Nigeria's tumultuous northeast,

according to human rights groups. The kidnapping victims include more than 200 schoolgirls who were abducted from the Borno town of Chibok nearly two years ago.

Boko Haram launched its insurgency in 2009, with the aim of carving out an "Islamic State" in Nigeria's northeast. Since then more than 17,000 people have been killed and over 2.6 million have fled their homes.

Military gains by Nigerian troops last year have enabled some of the displaced to return home.

Meanwhile,

a planned regional force involving troops from Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Benin

is expected to deploy to fight the Islamists.

bik/jil (AFP, dpa)

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