Nigeria to release all women held for 'terrorism'


Female student stands in a burnt classroom at Maiduguri Experimental School, a private nursery, primary and secondary school burnt by the Islamist group Boko Haram to keep children away from school in Maiduguri, northeastern Nigeria on May 12, 2012.



Nigeria said Tuesday it would release several suspects being held for "terrorist activities," including all women in custody.

"Consequent upon the directives of the president ... the Defense Headquarters will be releasing from detention a number of persons being held in connection with terrorist activities," a defense statement said, adding it included "all women under custody."

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Islamist militant group Boko Haram had previously demanded the release of female prisoners and, in a recent video, the extremist group's suspected leader, Abubakar Shekau, said Boko Haram was holding women and children hostage in retaliation for the wives and children of its members detained by the military.

The decision to release the prisoners was an attempt to better peace efforts in Nigeria and was linked to a recommendation from a panel set up by the presidency to open dialogue with insurgents.

"The measure, which is in line with presidential magnanimity to enhance peace efforts in the country, will result in freedom for suspects including all women under custody," the defense statement said.

The announcement followed a decision by President Goodluck Jonathan on May 14 to impose emergency rule in the northeastern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa and start a military campaign against Boko Haram insurgents. Jonathan set up a committee in April to draft a plan that would give amnesty to Boko Haram fighters and disarm the group's members over a 60-day period.