Released Chibok girls arrive in Nigerian capital Abuja

The 82 Chibok girls were released by Boko Haram militant group in exchange for five of their commanders, Nigerian government official says.

Photo by: AFP Archive
Photo by: AFP Archive

Last October, at least 21 girls were released by Boko Haram. The militant group seized 276 girls from the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, Borno state in April 2014, stirring up a global campaign to bring them back.

A group of 82 girls released by Boko Haram militants who kidnapped at least 276 students from the northern Nigerian town of Chibok in 2014 arrived in the capital Abuja on Sunday. 

The girls arrived at Abuja airport and were driven away in a military convoy.

"We are always excited when we have such news... we are excited over one [release]... it was as if heaven had come down, imagine, with 82. So today is a very good day,” Emman Shehu, who is part of the Bring Back Our Girls protest group, said.

The 82 Chibok girls were released by Boko Haram militant group in exchange for five of their commanders, a Nigerian government official said, AP reported late Sunday after the girls reached Abuja.

A statement from Nigeria's presidency said on Saturday the country had secured the release of 82 girls in exchange for Boko Haram prisoners but had not provided more details. President Muhammadu Buhari was expected to meet the girls on Sunday, the statement said.

This is the largest negotiated release so far of the nearly 300 girls. Their mass abduction in 2014 highlighted the threat of Nigeria’s homegrown extremist fighters who are linked to Daesh.

Challenging negotiations

At the initial release of 21 girls in October 2016, the government said the release of more girls would be coming soon. But at the three-year anniversary of the kidnapping in April, the government said negotiations had “gone quite far” but faced challenges.

Shehu Sani, a Nigerian senator who has been involved in previous negotiations with Boko Haram, told AFP the girls were mostly "in good condition".

The talks lasted for "almost three to four months" and had initially discussed the release of 50 girls but the number was later increased, he said.

Symbol of the conflict

Boko Haram fighters stormed the Government Girls Secondary School in the remote town of Chibok on the evening of April 14, 2014 and kidnapped 276 teenage girls who were preparing to sit high school exams.

At least 57 managed to escape in the hours that followed but the remaining 219 were held by the group.

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 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.

Boko Haram has used kidnapping as a weapon of war, seizing thousands of women and children, including the Chibok girls, and forcibly recruiting young men and boys into their ranks.

TRTWorld and agencies