LAGOS, Feb. 25 (Xinhua) -- Nigerian troops has entered mop-up phase in fight against Boko Haram that would facilitate release of captives, including Chibok girls, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, Chief of Army Staff, said.
The army chief made the remark in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital late on Wednesday during a meeting with the state Elders Forum as part of measures adopted to consolidate on the gains recorded in counter-insurgency operation.
"We were given three major tasks and we have made efforts toward achieving two," he said.
"The first task is to defeat Boko Haram and I want to tell you that as at today Boko Haram has been defeated," he added.
"When I say defeat, it doesn't necessarily mean that there won't be hitches here and there. We have entered the mop up stage of our operation", he said.
According to him, the mop up phase would facilitate the release of those held captive by the insurgents, including the Chibok girls.
Buratai told his audience that the second part of the first task is to rescue those who are held hostage at some marked locations by the insurgents.
The army chief said the second major task in the military's north-east operation was to facilitate the restoration of normalcy in affected areas and provision of relief materials to displaced persons.
He said the military had aided civil authorities in the return of displaced persons from Bama, Gwoza and other communities.
"The second task is to support the civil authorities in caring and protecting the Internally Displaced Persons and to help the civil authorities in restoring normalcy and rebuilding those areas that have been liberated," he said.
"It has already commenced in places like Bama, Gamboru Ngala, Baga, Mongonu and most of those areas are deserted because they are afraid that they could be attacked," he said.
He said some challenges initially encountered in the course of operation had been addressed, stressing that the operation was progressing according to projections.
Buratai acknowledged the support of the elders and urged them and the entire Borno people to be patient with the military particularly on measures initiated to tackle the insurgents.
He said measures such as the closure of markets and curfews were all taken to address gaps observed in the military operation.
Earlier, Chairman of the Forum, Gaji Galtimari, said the military had succeeded in decimating the insurgents to the extent that the regular bomb and gun attacks were limited in parts of the region.
Galtimari said Borno elders were in support of measures adopted by the military in finally ending the menace of Boko Haram and pledged to do more to support the military.