Niger’s government says 46 soldiers and 28 civilians were killed over the weekend as troops battled Boko Haram militants for control of an island in Lake Chad.
Officials said Tuesday that 156 militants also were killed in the clashes, which began after Boko Haram attacked an army base on Karamga island on Saturday. Niger's army said it has since retaken control of the island.
Niger, along with Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon, earlier this year launched a regional offensive to end the Boko Haram insurgency. The Nigeria-based militant Islamist group has claimed more than 10,000 lives and driven more than a million people in northeastern Nigerian from their homes.
On Tuesday, Nigerian troops rescued nearly 300 girls and women from the vast Sambisa Forest, one of the group's last strongholds.
The forest is believed to be the place where militants took more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped from the Nigerian town of Chibok last April. The Chibok girls were not among those rescued, a Nigerian Army spokesman said.
The abductees were found at three camps in the forest, which have since been destroyed, Nigerian Defense Department spokesman Major General Chris Olukolade told VOA.
Boko Haram once controlled sections of Yobe, Borno and Adamawa states but has lost nearly all of its territory in the wake of the multinational offensive.