Boko Haram releases dozens of Chibok schoolgirls, say Nigerian officials – Guardian staff and agencies First published on Saturday 6 May 2017 17.54 EDT


Large number of the 200 girls abducted by insurgents in 2014 are reported to have been freed after negotiations with government

One of the girls released in October 2016 with family members in Abuja; it was believed that 195 girls were still being held captive before the latest release. Photograph: Olamikan Gbemiga/AP

Eighty-two Chibok schoolgirls seized three years ago by Boko Haram have been freed in exchange for detained suspects with the extremist group, Nigeria’s government announced early on Sunday, in the largest release negotiated yet in the battle to save nearly 300 girls whose mass abduction exposed the mounting threat posed by the Islamic State-linked fighters.

The statement from the office of President Muhammadu Buhari was the first confirmation that his government had made a swap for the girls. After an initial release of 21 Chibok girls in October, the government denied making an exchange or paying ransom.

The April 2014 abduction by Boko Haram brought the extremist group’s rampage in northern Nigeria to world attention and, for families of the schoolgirls, began years marked with heartbreak.

Some relatives did not live long enough to see their daughters released. Many of the captive girls, most of them Christians, were forced to marry their captors and give birth to children in remote forest hideouts without ever knowing if they would see their parents again. It is feared that other girls were strapped with explosives and sent on missions as suicide bombers.

As word of the latest release emerged, long-suffering family members said they were eagerly awaiting a list of names and “our hopes and expectations are high.”
Before Saturday’s release, 195 of the girls had remained captive. Now 113 of the girls remain unaccounted for.

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