Boko Haram releases 82 kidnapped schoolgirls

Nigeria negotiates the release of 82 of more than 200 schoolgirls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2014.

Ben Ariel ,

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Flag of Nigeria

Nigeria on Saturday said it had negotiated the release of 82 of the more than 200 schoolgirls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram Islamists more than three years ago, AFP reported.

The girls’ freedom was secured in a prisoner swap deal, according to the report.

The presidency announced that months of talks with the jihadists had "yielded results", just over six months after 21 of their classmates were freed with the help of international mediators.

"Today 82 more Chibok girls were released," it said, according to AFP.

"After lengthy negotiations, our security agencies have taken back these girls, in exchange for some Boko Haram suspects held by the authorities."

No details were given about how many suspects were released or their identities.

The girls were to be taken to Abuja on Sunday to meet President Muhammadu Buhari, the presidency said, thanking security agencies, the Swiss government and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

"The president has repeatedly expressed his total commitment towards ensuring the safe return of the Chibok girls and all other Boko Haram captives," it added.

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.

The government would now look to securing the release of the remaining hostages, he added.

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

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

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau, later claimed in a video message that they had converted to Islam.

In recent years Nigeria has been hit by a wave of terrorist attacks, most of which have been carried out by Boko Haram. Targets have included sports venues and schools teaching a secular curriculum.

Many women and children - including teenage girls - have been taken hostage by the group, which has carried out raids on schools and colleges, seeing them as a symbol of Western culture.

In 2014, Boko Haram pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS) group.