The Nigerian army said Sunday it had recaptured and “secured” the northeastern town of Chibok, where Islamic militants abducted more than 200 schoolgirls in April.
The army recaptured the town Saturday evening from Boko Haram militants, spokesman General Olajide Olaleye told AFP in a text message. “Mopping up ops ongoing. (The) town is now secured,” he said.
Leading elder Pogu Bitrus told AFP the town was re-taken in a joint operation with local vigilantes known as the Civilian Joint Task Force, who back up the military in several parts of the northeast where Boko Haram is active.
He said the vigilantes fought inside the town while army soldiers “stayed outside the town to mop up the insurgents trying to escape.”
Boko Haram had captured the town on Thursday after a battle lasting several hours.
Several inhabitants said the army had fled the assault, leaving the vigilantes to fight on their own.
Control of Chibok is crucial to the reputation of the army and the government, which have come under harsh criticism for their failure to rescue the schoolgirls.
The Islamists stormed the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok on the evening of April 14 and forced 276 students onto trucks in a mass abduction that caused global outrage.
Fifty-seven managed to escape.
The insurrection by Boko Haram, which wants to create an Islamic state in mainly Muslim northern Nigeria, has claimed more than 10,000 lives in the past five years.
They have seized more than 20 towns and villages in the northeast in recent months.