The Nigerian Air Force says 26 kidnap victims escaped after an air strike hit the militant camp where they were being held, in Kaduna in north-west Nigeria.
The leader of the armed group and his 17 members were killed, the force said.
Air force spokesman Edward Gabkwet identified the militia leader as Alhaji Shanono, who was said to be holding a meeting with his fighters.
“Overhead the location, terrorists were sighted under clusters of trees at the foot of Ukambo high ground and after ensuring the absence of civilian settlements within the location, the crew received the authorization to strike”, Mr Gabkwet said.
More than 30 rifles and 20 motorcycles were reportedly destroyed in the airstrike.
Meanwhile, another set of seven hostages abducted during an attack on a train on the Abuja-Kaduna train route has regained their freedom. They include six members of the same family and an elderly woman.
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