MAIDUGURI, NIGERIA (AP) - Officials say 63 girls and women abducted by Islamic extremists two weeks ago have escaped.
Nigerian security forces and federal government officials had denied reports of another mass abduction from three villages in the northeast on June 22.
Small-scale kidnappings by Boko Haram extremists had been going on for months when they drew international condemnation for the abductions of more than 200 schoolgirls from a school in Chibok town of Borno State April 15. Some 219 of those girls still are missing.
The government and military failure to rescue them has attracted criticism at home and abroad.
Local government chairman Pogu Bitrus and vigilante leader Abbas Gava said they verified that 63 women and girls escaped Thursday and Friday while their captors were engaged in a major battle with soldiers.