A total of 192 people were released on Friday from two Islamist enclaves, where they had been kept since a January 6 raid on Katarko, 20 kilometres (12 miles) from the state capital Damaturu. In all, 218 women and children were abducted.
“Boko Haram have released 192 of our women they kidnapped early this month,” Goni Mari, a Katarko community leader told AFP from Damaturu. “They brought them in two batches in four trucks and dropped them at Girbuwa village, eight kilometres from Damaturu, from where we conveyed them to the city and they were taken into government custody.”
The raid on Katarko saw dozens of Boko Haram gunmen storm the village, where they killed 25 men and burnt homes and businesses before kidnapping the women and children.
The attack was apparently in retaliation over a raid by local hunters and vigilantes in nearby Buni Yadi, where several militants were killed and scores of others were arrested, vigilantes said at the time.
But with Boko Haram raids a near daily occurrence in the restive northeast and no precise figures on the numbers of people taken, the attack received little publicity.
Boko Haram fought running battles with troops in Damaturu the following Friday, again in an apparent reprisal to the Buni Yadi raid.
A military officer, who requested anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media, also confirmed the release of the hostages.
“It is true Boko Haram terrorists yesterday (Friday) released 192 hostages they kidnapped from Katarko village,” he added.
Mass abduction has been a feature of Boko Haram’s bloody six-year insurgency, with young men and boys forcibly conscripted to fight alongside the militants.
Women and young girls have been taken to be wives for the Islamists, with reports from those who were freed or escaped of forced labour, sexual and psychological abuse.