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, Colonel Timothy Antigha, said they had fled several islands in Lake Chad and arrived in the town of Monguno, in Borno state.

The military says a recent armed forces operation, Deep Punch II, has weakened Boko Haram, while in his New Year address, President Muhammadu Buhari said the group had been beaten.

According to Colonel Antigha, Operation Deep Punch II was targeted at destroying Boko Haram infrastructure and logistics, such as communication centres, fabrication yards, bomb making equipment, vehicles and other means of sustenance.

were held for their labour

Colonel Antigha added that the escapees were being profiled to ensure there were no militants hidden among them.