Niger has freed “terrorist chiefs” from jail, including members of Boko Haram, as part of reconciliation efforts in the West African nation, officials and state media said Saturday.
President Mohamed Bazoum made the announcement on Friday evening during a meeting on the security situation attended by military and government officials and traditional leaders, state television reported.
“I have identified nine terrorist chiefs. I was advised to free the prisoners whom I then received at the presidential palace because I am seeking peace,” Bazoum was quoted as saying.
The prisoners were held in the southern town of Kollo and the high-security Koutoukale prison, he said.
“These releases are the first of their kind that have been publicly disclosed as part of the search for and restoration of peace in Niger,” a presidential source told AFP.
The release took place over the last three months and included Boko Haram members, a presidential source said.
Niger, the world’s poorest country according to the UN’s Human Development Index, is contending with two jihadist insurgencies.
It has faced groups such as the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara in the west, as well as Boko Haram and the Islamic State West Africa Province in the southeast, near the border with Nigeria.
Bazoum said 12,000 Nigerien soldiers were battling jihadists while stressing the need for Western help in the operations.