The Boko Haram extremist group has been crushed and forced from its last enclave, Nigeria’s president has said.
Muhammadu Buhari said Nigeria’s had captured a key Boko Haram camp in the Sambisa forest that was its stronghold.
“The terrorists are on the run and no longer have a place to hide,” Mr Buhari said in a statement.
The capture of Camp Zero, deep within the heart of the forest, marks the “final crushing of Boko Haram terrorists in their last enclave”, he said.
Despite the announcement, Nigeria is unlikely to see an imminent end to suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks that have been carried out by the group for the past years.
The AP news agency reported that the insurgents may already be regrouping in Taraba and Bauchi states, south of their northeastern stronghold in Borno state.
There, they could be taking advantage of a decades-old conflict in central Nigeria between mainly Muslim nomadic cattle herders and sedentary Christian farmers.
Boko Haram has killed 15,000 people and displaced more than two million during its seven-year insurgency.
The group aims to create an Islamic state governed by a strict interpretation of sharia.
In early 2015, it controlled an area in the northeast around the size of Belgium.
But since then it has been pushed out of most of that territory by Nigeria’s and from neighboring countries – retreating mostly to the Sambisa forest, a former colonial game reserve.
The Sambisa Forest was where Boko Haram was believed to be holding some of more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped in April 2014 from a school in the town of Chibok.
The mass abduction brought the Islamic extremist’s world attention and sparked an international social media campaign #BringBackOurGirls.
“Further efforts should be intensified to locate and free our remaining Chibok girls still in captivity,” Mr. Buhari said.
Some girls have been freed in negotiations, and others escaped. But the majority remain missing, while others are believed to have died in captivity.
Mr Buhari’s statement made no mention of the whereabouts of Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the Boko Haram faction based in the forest.