MAIDUGURI, Nigeria Dec 27 More than 3,000
people in northeast Nigeria who were forced to flee the
seven-year insurgency waged by Islamist militants have returned
to their hometown following the reopening of major roads in the
area, the army said on Tuesday.
Damasak - in the northwest of Borno, the state worst hit by
the militants - was taken over by Boko Haram in late 2014, when
it controlled an area the size of Belgium in northeast Nigeria.
The insurgents were pushed out of the town by the army in July.
President Muhammadu Buhari said on Saturday that the army
had taken back Boko Haram's main camp in the Sambisa forest.
On Sunday, the government said it was reopening two roads
between Borno's capital, Maiduguri, and the northern towns of
Damasak and Baga.
Army spokesman Sani Usman said more than 3,000 people used
one of the roads to return to Damasak on Monday.
Reuters was unable to independently verify his statement.
"They were residents of Damasak displaced by the insurgency
staying as refugees in the neighbouring Niger Republic and
internally displaced people in Maiduguri," he said.
Usman said the returnees went through military security
checks when they arrived and were met by local government
officials and community leaders.
More than two million people have been displaced during the
insurgency as Boko Haram tries to establish an Islamic state,
run using a strict interpretation of sharia, in the northeast.
About 15,000 people have been killed.
After the announcement that the Sambisa camp had been taken,
the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, said the former game
reserve would be used as a military training base to prevent the
Security analysts say Boko Haram split this year with one
faction led by Abubakar Shekau operating from the Sambisa forest
and the other, allied to Islamic State and led by Abu Musab
al-Barnawi, based in the Lake Chad region.
Despite having been pushed back by a military offensive in
the last few months, Boko Haram still stages suicide bombings in
northeast Nigeria and in neighbouring Niger and Cameroon.
(Reporting by Lanre Ola; Additional reporting by Camillus Eboh
in Abuja and Alexis Akwagyiram in Lagos; Writing by Alexis
Akwagyiram; Editing by Louise Ireland)