82 Chibok schoolgirls freed in exchange for five Boko Haram leaders

Kidnapped girls released after 'lengthy negotiations' between Nigerian government and radical Islamist group

Chibok schoolgirls and President Muhammadu Buhari
Freed Chibok schoolgirls listen to an address by President Muhammadu Buhari
(Image credit: Philip Ojisua / AFP / Getty)

More than 80 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram three years ago have arrived in Nigeria's capital as part of a government prisoner exchange.

After what has been described as "lengthy negotiations" by President Muhammadu Buhari, a further 82 of the 270 girls kidnapped from the northern town of Chibok in 2014 have been reunited with their families in exchange for five Boko Haram commanders. It follows the release of 21 schoolgirls last October, although the government then denied it had made a prisoner exchange or paid a ransom.

Ahmed Idris of Al Jazeera said: "A lot of people are happy. A lot of people are excited. But there is also anxiety... Everybody hopes that his or her daughter is part of the 82 who've come home now."

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Boko Haram, the seven-year insurgency which seeks to create an Islamic caliphate in the north-east of Nigeria, has claimed the lives of an estimated 15,000 people and displaced more than two million.

Its kidnapping of the girls made headlines around the world.

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A global Bring Back Our Girls campaign, supported by former US first lady Michelle Obama and other celebrities, has brought "tremendous pressure" on the Nigerian government to counter the extremist group, which controls large parts of the north of the country, says The Guardian.

Of the initial group abducted, 113 are still unaccounted for. Reports from survivors and defectors suggest many have been forced to marry their captors and give birth to their children, while others were strapped with explosives and used as suicide bombers.

Aisha Yesufu, of Bring Back Our Girls, said the freed girls required rehabilitation and trauma counselling.

"It's not just to bring them back home; we must ensure they get the education they are supposed to have," she said.

"It is time for them to be reunited with their families... There has to be rehabilitation. And at the end of the day, we want to have world leaders out of every one of them so they can be what the terrorists did not want them to be."

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