Freed hostages, who had been abducted by armed groups in northwest Nigeria, disembark from buses Jan. 4, 2022, in Gusau, Nigeria.
READ MORE: Nearly 100 hostages, including women and children, were rescued more than two months after they had been abducted by armed groups in northwest Nigeria, police said Tuesday.
Among the 97 freed hostages were 19 babies and more than a dozen children, according to Ayuba Elkana, police chief in Zamfara state.
Mostly barefooted, weary and in worn-out clothes, the ex-captives trickled out of the buses that took them to Gusau, capital of Zamfara state.
Women with malnourished-looking babies strapped to their backs trailed behind.
Coming a few days after 21 schoolchildren had been freed by security forces, the rescue brought relief to Nigeria, where armed groups have killed thousands and kidnapped many residents and travelers in exchange for ransoms.
Police said the hostages were "rescued unconditionally" Monday in joint security operations targeting the camps of armed groups that have been terrorizing remote communities across the northwest and center of Africa's most populous country.
They had been abducted from their homes and along highways in remote communities in Zamfara and neighboring Sokoto state.
The hostages had slept on the ground in abandoned forest reserves that serve as hideouts for the gunmen.
The first batch of 68 "were in captivity for over three months, and they include 33 male adults, seven male children, three female children and 25 women, including pregnant/nursing mothers, respectively," police chief Elkana said.
Another set of 29 victims were also rescued "unconditionally" in Kunchin Kalgo forest in the Tsafe local government area of Zamfara, police said. (AP)