President Muhammadu Buhari has announced that the Nigerian army has driven Boko Haram militants from their last camp in their Sambisa forest stronghold.
According to President Buhari, “the terrorists are on the run and no longer have a place to hide.”
He added that the Islamists’ camp fell about 1:35pm local time on Friday.
The army has been engaged for the last few weeks in a major offensive in the forest, a huge former colonial game reserve in north-eastern Borno state.
There has been speculation that some of the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped in 2014 were being held in the forest.
Some of the abducted girls who escaped shortly after they were seized said they had been kept there.
The army has recaptured significant areas of territory previously controlled by Boko Haram since an offensive began in February.
Mr Buhari issued a statement congratulating the armed forces on the operation, calling the apparent success “long-awaited and most gratifying”.
“I want to use this opportunity to commend the determination, courage and resilience of troops of Operation Lafiya Dole at finally entering and crushing the remnants of the Boko Haram insurgents,” he said.
Boko Haram still stages suicide bombings in the northeast of Nigeria and in neighbouring Niger and Cameroon.
The group is thought to have killed more than 15,000 people and displaced more than two million during a seven-year insurgency in the region.
Leader Abubakar Shekau, who has pledged allegiance to the so-called Islamic State, promotes a version of Islam that forbids Muslims from taking part in any political or social activity associated with Western society.
Read the full text by President Buhari below:
MY GOODWILL MESSAGE TO TROOPS OF OPERATION LAFIYA DOLE ON THE SUCCESSFUL CAPTURE OF BOKO HARAM ENCLAVE IN SAMBISA FOREST
I am delighted at, and most proud of the gallant troops of the Nigerian Army, on receipt of the long-awaited and most gratifying news of the final crushing of Boko Haram terrorists in their last enclave in Sambisa Forest.
I want to use this opportunity to commend the determination, courage and resilience of troops of Operation LAFIYA DOLE at finally entering and crushing the remnants of the Boko Haram insurgents at “Camp Zero”, which is located deep within the heart of Sambisa Forest.
I was told by the Chief of Army Staff that the Camp fell at about 1:35pm on Friday, December 23, and that the terrorists are on the run, and no longer have a place to hide.
I urge you to maintain the tempo by pursuing them and bringing them to justice.
I, therefore, call on all Nigerians to cooperate and support the Nigerian Armed Forces and other security agencies by providing useful information that will expose all the terrorists hiding among the populace.
Further efforts should be intensified to locate and free our remaining Chibok girls still in captivity.
May God be with them.
I also want to congratulate and commend the able leadership of the Nigerian Army in particular and indeed, that of the Armed Forces in general, for making this possible.
This, no doubt, will go a long way in improving the security situation not only in the North East, but the country in general.
But we must not let our guards down.
Once more, congratulations to our troops and all who, in one way or the other, contributed to this most commendable and momentous effort.
May the Almighty continue to be with you.
I wish you a Merry Christmas and a most rewarding and peaceful Year 2017 ahead.
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