World Bulletin / News Desk
At least 1,240 suspects linked to Boko Haram have been arrested in recent operations that led to the capture of the terrorist group's main fortress in the Sambisa forest, the Nigerian army said on Wednesday.
Speaking at a news briefing in Maiduguri, the capital city of the insurgency-wracked Borno state, Maj.-Gen. Leo Irabor, commander of the troops fighting the insurgents, said: "We have arrested a total of 1,240 for links to Boko Haram. We don't consider them escapees because they were arrested during the operation that led to the fall of camp zero. We consider them either sympathizers or members of Boko Haram."
At least 30 Boko Haram suspects -- 24 males and six females – also surrendered to the Nigerien army and were being interrogated in Diffa, the capital city of the French-speaking country that shares its border with Nigeria.
The army commander said the military had won the battle against the militants with the fall of their operational headquarters, but said the "battle to win the peace has just begun" with troops still on the trail of militants fleeing from the forest.
Irabor brushed aside claims of an arrest of a French man in the forest, although he admitted that a number of foreigners, including a Burkinabe, had been arrested.
"As we speak, some of my officers and men are on the trail of fleeing militants who have been smoked out of their enclave. So we are not saying this war is over," according to the army official.
Irabor's briefing was the first by military top hierarchy since President Muhammadu Buhari announced the fall of the Sambisa forest last Saturday, adding the feat marked the end for the militants who have killed an estimated 20,000 people and displaced over two million since they staged the uprising in 2009.