Nigeria's military says it has recaptured the town of Chibok from Boko Haram, where the extremist Islamic militants kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls earlier this year.
Army spokesman Olajide Olaleye said Sunday that Nigerian forces had "secured" the northeastern town, and that operations were underway to flush out Boko Haram militants who had captured it on Thursday.
Leading elder Pogu Bitrus said Chibok had been re-taken in a joint operation between the military and the Civilian Joint Task Force, a group of vigilantes who frequently back up the military in the northeast, where Boko Haram is active.
He said the vigilantes stormed the town while army soldiers stayed outside the town to "mop up the insurgents trying to escape."
It wasn't clear whether the assault resulted in casualties.
Chibok crucial for army standing
Boko Haram, which is trying to establish an Islamic state in religiously mixed northern Nigeria, has carried out several fatal attacks and seized several towns since it rejected a ceasefire announced last month by the government.
On Thursday, Boko Haram militants reportedly entered Chibok on pickup trucks and motorcycles shooting sporadically, forcing inhabitants to flee. After a battle lasting several hours, the group had reclaimed the village where it kidnapped close to 300 girls from the Government Girls Secondary School on the evening of April 14.
Control of Chibok is crucial to the reputation of the army and the government, which have come under harsh criticism for their failure to rescue the schoolgirls.
The kidnapping prompted a global campaign to ensure their safe release, entitled "Bring Back Our Girls." Some of the captives were able to escape in the first days of the hostage drama, but 219 of the abducted schoolgirls are still missing.
In an interview with DW, the Nigerian army's deputy director of public relations, Colonel Sani Usman, could not give details about the army's efforts to rescue the girls but did imply the town of Chibok would be better protected.
"We have made adequate arrangements to guard the lives and properties of the legal inhabitants of that town and area," he said.
glb / se (Reuters, AFP)