Nigerian military officials have said that 10 Boko Haram camps were wiped out on Sunday in the group’s stronghold of Sambisa Forest one day after a public bus station was attacked in the northeast and seven people were killed, Reuters has reported.
Boko Haram’s attack again indicated the group’s ability to strike so-called "soft targets" and its persistent threat to civilians, despite claimed military gains in seizing captured towns and territory.
Defense spokesman of Nigeria, Chris Olukolade said late on Sunday that a number of rebels were killed in the offensive in remote Borno state, while one soldier died in a landmine explosion and two others were injured.
"The operation to clear the terrorists in Sambisa and other forests is continuing as troops in all fronts have been alerted to be on the lookout for fleeing terrorists," Olukolade said in a statement.
"The Nigerian Air Force is maintaining an active air surveillance to track the movement of terrorists for appropriate action as the operation continues. The Dure camp - which is one of the most prominent camps in the forest - witnessed the fiercest battle as the Special Forces descended heavily on it before it finally fell. Four of the camps were located in a place called Iza within the forest while three others were noted to be recently established by the terrorists before the assault began,” he added.
“One soldier died from one of the landmines encountered in the operation while two others were also wounded. The terrorists lost a number of vehicles mounted with Anti-Aircraft Guns as well as armoured vehicles. Some of the terrorists who escaped from the camps also died as they ran into an ambush at some escape routes from the forest.” he stated.
Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan is keen to announce that the armed group has been cleared from the northeast before he leaves office at the end of the month, according to Reuters.
But experts have warned against any premature declaration of victory, with the root causes of the conflict - particularly chronic social and economic deprivation in the region - yet to be addressed.
The Nigerian army announced the rescue of 200 girls and 93 women during a military operation to wrest back the Sambisa Forest from Boko Haram in late April.
The group, notorious for violence against civilians, controlled an area roughly the size of Belgium at the start of the year but has since been beaten back by Nigerian troops, backed by Chad, Niger and Cameroon.
According to AFP analysts, Nigeria and other countries fighting against Boko Haram should not think that they have been victorious yet since Boko Haram is far from being defeated and can easily regroup, especially if there is a slacking in military pressure.