West African forces have freed 5,000 people being held in villages by Boko Haram in an operation that killed more than 60 fighters and destroyed the Islamist group's hideout along the Nigeria-Cameroon border, Cameroon said on Wednesday.

"(The) hostages freed consisted mostly of women, children and elderly people," Communications Minister Issa Tchiroma Bakary told a news conference.

He later clarified that "the 5,000 people were saved after a sweep at the border within Cameroonian territory ... who were hostages that could not leave the villages," adding that "more than 60 terrorists were ... neutralized."