The Nigerian army says more than 700 people held by Boko Haram militants in the north-east of the country have escaped captivity. An army spokesperson, Col Timothy Antigha, said they had fled several islands in Lake Chad and arrived in the town of Monguno, in Borno state.

There has been no independent verification of the army’s claim. A BBC correspondent says the escapes are likely to have happened over a period of time, not in one go. The military says a recent armed forces operation, Deep Punch II, has weakened Boko Haram.

In a post on the HQ Nigerian Army Facebook page, Col Antigha said the 700 comprised “farmers, fishermen and members of their families who were hitherto held by Boko Haram terrorists as farm workers”.He said the recent operation “was targeted at destroying Boko Haram infrastructure and logistics; such as communication centres, fabrication yards, bomb making equipment, vehicles and other means of sustenance”.

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