It has been reported that 21 Chibok schoolgirls who were kidnapped by the extremist group Boko Haram have been freed, according to Nigerian government officials. There have been previous reports of the girls being released, and these turned out to be wrong. This turn of events has, however, been confirmed.
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Garba Shehu, a spokesman for President Muhammadu Buhari, shared that the 21 girls have indeed been released and are in the custody of the state services department. Local media shares that the Boko Haram had dropped the girls at a particular location and the military picked them up.
“The release of the girls, in a limited number, is the outcome of negotiations between the administration and Boko Haram brokered by the International Red Cross and the Swiss government. The negotiations will continue,” Shehu explained. “The president welcomes the release of the girls but cautioned Nigerians to be mindful of the fact that more than 30,000 fellow citizens were killed via terrorism.”
As for the girls’ mental and physical health, an official has relayed that they are understandably very tired. The release was a part of a trade; the girls were swapped for four Boko Haram prisoners. Officials expect that more of the Chibok students will be released in the near future.
A defense ministry spokesman, Gen. Rabe Abubakar, shared what he could about the situation, but he also noted that he and other officials are not authorized to speak in detail on the matter.
“We’re not authorised to release the details of how the girls were retrieved yet but the operation to retrieve the girls is ongoing. We are optimistic we will retrieve more of the Chibok girls from Boko Haram very soon, in the coming weeks.”
It was in May of 2015 that Buhari took power, and he made a vow to “crush Boko Haram” within a year, the Guardian reports. Although forces have taken back large regions of territory from the militants, the extremist group remains active and continues to kill hundreds and even thousands of people, mostly by way of suicide bombings.
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The group, which sparked the #BringBackOurGirls campaign, also released a statement about the latest turn of events, sharing that is was a “wonderful development” and confirmed “what we have always known about the capacity of our Government to rescue our #ChibokGirls.”
“Following this development, we trust that our government will continue to work to keep the safety, security, and wellbeing of the other girls a high priority. We further urge the international community to continue to support our government’s effort to rescue all other abducted Nigerians, so that parents, the Chibok community, the nation and the world can finally put an end to this nightmare once and for all.”
It was in April of 2014 that the Islamic militant group kidnapped 270 students from a school in Chibok, which caused global shock and condemnation toward the militants. The kidnapping also caused the initiation of one of the biggest social media campaigns. The campaign went global following the spread of reports regarding the horrendous events.
The military continues to carry out an intense operation in the Sambisa forest, which is a region that Boko Haram occupies. Only one additional student has been confirmed to have been released from Chibok, which occurred more than two years ago. It is believed that 218 students are still missing, while 50 had been able to escape on the day they were captured.
Boko Haram has also kidnapped thousands of others during the seven-year insurgency in the northeastern portion of Nigeria.
[Feature Image by Salisu Rabiu/AP Images]