ABUJA, NIGERIA - The Nigerian army says it has pushed Boko Haram militants out of the northeastern town of Chibok, the home of more than 200 schoolgirls the group kidnapped earlier this year.
Army officials say the military had recaptured the town, in an operation late Saturday, just two days after it was seized by Boko Haram.
Locals say the army was aided in the operation by a local vigilante force.
There was no information about casualties from Saturday's battle.
Boko Haram has taken a number of towns in the northeastern states of Borno and Adamawa this year for a "caliphate" proclaimed by the group's leader, Abubakar Shekau.
Nigerian security forces and vigilante groups have succeeded in retaking some areas, including the Adamawa town of Mubi, freed during a battle on Thursday.
Fighting has continued despite a cease-fire announced by the Nigerian government on October 17. Shekau said in a subsequent video that no cease-fire existed and that the kidnapped schoolgirls had been converted to Islam and married off.
The kidnapping from a Chibok secondary school April 14 made headlines and drew outrage from around the world. The Nigerian government has been unable to rescue the schoolgirls despite surveillance and intelligence help provided by the United States, Britain and other allies.
Hundreds of fighters on motorcycles and trucks poured into the town of Chibok late afternoon Friday, overrunning the military forces and vigilante groups to take control.
“The local vigilantes did put up a fight with the contingent of the military that’s in Chibok, but they were outgunned,” said Pogo Bitrus, chairman of the Chibok elders’ forum.
Chibok’s population has swelled with people displaced by fighting elsewhere in Borno State and other regions. The fighting prompted the government to declare emergency rule in Borno and two other states.
Bitrus said many of the town’s residents tried to escape.
“Those who are aged like my old man are still trapped in Chibok. What has become of them, we don’t know,” he said.
Also Friday, a suicide bomber killed at least six people Friday in the northern city of Kano. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but Boko Haram militants have previously attacked the city.
Security forces and vigilante groups have succeeded in retaking some areas, including the Adamawa town of Mubi on Thursday.
Fighting has continued despite a cease-fire announced by the Nigerian government on October 17. Shekau said in a subsequent video there was no cease-fire and that the kidnapped schoolgirls had been converted to Islam and married off.
The Nigerian government has failed to rescue the girls despite surveillance and intelligence help provided by the United States, Britain and other allies.
In Washington, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the United States was committed to helping the government.
"We condemn these attacks in Chibok, a community that has already suffered too much. Our condolences go out to the families of the victims," Psaki said. “We remain committed to helping the government of Nigeria address the threat posed by extremist organizations.”