Boko Haram releases 21 kidnapped Chibok girls held more than two years
The Nigerian extremist group Boko Haram has released 21 of the school girls it abducted two-and-a-half years ago. The group is believed to still be holding about 200 other girls. Sam Olukoya reports from Lagos.
More than two years after their abduction, the 21 released young women were picked up by military helicopters in Bankia village in Nigeria’s Borno State. They had spent their captivity in Boko Haram’s Sambisa Forest stronghold.
The Nigerian government says the release of the girls is the result of negotiations mediated by the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Swiss government. Officials have been tight-lipped about the conditions of the hostage deal, but many speculate the girls were freed in exchange for Boko Haram members jailed in Nigerian prisons.
The militant extremists have long demanded that Nigerian authorities release their members, jailed in connection with the spate of bombings and assassinations that have killed thousands of people in the country in recent years.
John Onuka, an activist with the Bring Back Our Girls campaign, says the hostage release is long overdue, but that the government should work towards gaining freedom for all those still held captive.
“The release of the Chibok girls is something I have personally expected to have happened long time before today,” Onuka says. “It is not so exciting that out of the number of girls kidnapped, only 21 were released.”
But the girls have not yet returned to their families. After their release from Boko Haram captivity, they were taken into custody by Nigeria’s intelligence agency. The Associated Press reports that most of the released girls were carrying babies.
Two-hundred-and-seventy-six girls between the ages of 16 and 18 were kidnapped from their school in 2014, sparking international outrage. About 200 young women remain missing, and believed to be held in the Sambisa Forest.
Their fate in unknown, and Boko Haram says some of the girls have died.