Maiduguri - Nigeria's
military released 58 women and children suspected of having links with
Islamist insurgent group Boko Haram to local governments on Friday, who
will in turn return them to their homes in a gesture meant to draw
moderates into peace talks.
President Goodluck Jonathan is
launching his biggest offensive yet to oust Islamist insurgents seen as
the main threat to Africa's top oil producer from their strongholds in
the northeast. But he says he also wants to pursue a peaceful resolution
with fighters willing to surrender.
detainees will be rehabilitated and integrated into the society," Yobe
State Attorney General Ahmed Mustapha Goniri said while receiving 38
women and children from the military.
state Governor Kashim Shettima, one of many urging the government to
release low-risk detainees as a good-will gesture, said a further six
women and 14 young men were handed over to him on Friday.
"This marks a milestone in our quest for peace and to restore normalcy," he said.
ordered the release of the detainees and has offered amnesty to any
Boko Haram's members who surrender on the advice of a peace resolution
committee he set up in April.
Haram's leader Abubakar Shekau, who has dismissed peace talks and says
his fighters are repelling the offensive, has repeatedly demanded that
the government release the wives and children of its members who were
being held in detention.
It was not clear how many of the released women were wives of Boko Haram fighters or were just accused of helping the sect.
critics have welcomed an alternative approach to ending the violence,
security experts believe the most hardened Boko Haram cells will never
surrender and the longer fighting continues the more civilians will lose
faith in any peace offer.
declared a state of emergency on May 14 in the three northeastern
states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, which have been the worst hit by Boko
Haram's four-year insurgency that has killed more than 3000 people and
left remote regions under the insurgents' control.
of extra troops were sent to the region and Boko Haram camps were hit
with air strikes. The military has since claimed the insurgency has been
The intervention followed
a surge in violence by Boko Haram, which wants to establish an Islamic
state in its northeast heartland, where it launched an uprising in 2009.
groups like Boko Haram and the al Qaeda linked Ansaru have become the
biggest risk to stability in Nigeria, Africa's top oil producer and
second largest economy.
Nigeria had been criticised by human rights groups for the detention of women and children without any formal charges.
soldiers have also been accused of carrying out extra-judicial
killings, torturing suspects and causing mass civilian casualties during
The army denies it commits rights abuses and says civilians die in crossfire.