Boko Haram: 2,000 Captives Freed by Regional Force as Nigeria Launches Rehabilitation Program

People displaced by Boko Haram queue for food in Dikwa Camp, Borno, Nigeria.
Displaced people queue for food at Dikwa Camp in Borno state, northeast Nigeria, February 2. Cameroon says that a regional taskforce has freed 2,000 people from Boko Haram captivity in recent days. STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images

Some 2,000 people have been freed from Boko Haram by a West African regional force as Nigeria launches an operation to rehabilitate members of the militant group.

Bouba Dobekreo, Cameroon's commander of the joint multinational force, said on Tuesday that around 300 Boko Haram members had been arrested during a three-day operation to clear out the group's strongholds in the border regions of Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon, AP reported.

Cameroon, Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Benin came together in March 2015 to form a 8,700-strong regional force aimed at eradicating Boko Haram, which has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State militant group (ISIS). The governor of Cameroon's Far North province, Midjiyawa Bakari, has said that all displaced persons should be sent to the Minawao refugee camp in northern Cameroon to be processed.

Boko Haram has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions during a six-year insurgency that began in northern Nigeria in 2009 following the death of the group's founder, Mohammed Yusuf. Boko Haram's current leader, Abubakar Shekau, recently appeared in a purportedly new video in which he encouraged his followers to continue their fight.

Boko Haram was driven back from much of the territory it claimed in Nigeria during a military offensive in 2015 and has presently been pushed back to its stronghold of the Sambisa Forest in Borno state, northeast Nigeria.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the Nigerian Army said it had launched "Operation Safe Corridor," which would allow repentant militants to enter a "rehabilitation camp" as part of efforts to reintegrate Boko Haram members back into mainstream society. Nigerian defense spokesman Brigadier General Rabe Abubakar encouraged Boko Haram members to "see wisdom in surrendering now" since "the final onslaught against the remnant group of terrorists would continue unabated and would not relent until the power of evil forces in the northeast is completely neutralized."