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Boko Haram militants release more Chibok schoolgirls in Nigeria, three years after kidnapping

11:35, Sunday, 07 May, 2017
Boko Haram militants release more Chibok schoolgirls in Nigeria, three years after kidnapping

Boko Haram has released at least 80 schoolgirls kidnapped in 2014 from the northern Nigerian town of Chibok in exchange for members of the militant group held by authorities, the Nigerian presidency says.

Girls released in exchange for "some Boko Haram suspects" held by authorities
     Release follows years of negotiations between Government and extremist group
     It is the largest group of girls yet to be freed after years of tense negotiations.

"After lengthy negotiations, our security agencies have taken back these girls, in exchange for some Boko Haram suspects held by the authorities," the Government said in a statement posted to Twitter.

Switzerland and the International Committee of the Red Cross assisted in "lengthy negotiations" with the extremist group, the Government said, thanking them for their help.

Family members said they were eagerly awaiting a list of names and their "hopes and expectations are high".

The schoolgirls released today are expected to meet President Muhammadu Buhari soon.About 21 Chibok girls were released in October 2016 in a deal brokered by Switzerland and the International Red Cross, while a handful of others had escaped or been rescued.

The latest announcement means dozens of girls remain unaccounted for.

It is feared some were forced to carry out suicide bombing missions for Boko Haram, which has ties to the Islamic State group.

In April Mr Buhari said the Government was "in constant touch through negotiations, through local intelligence to secure the release of the remaining girls and other abducted persons unharmed".The girls were taken from a school in the remote north-eastern Borno state, where Boko Haram has waged an insurgency aimed at creating an Islamic state that has killed thousands and displaced more than 2 million people.

For more than two years there was no sign of the schoolgirls, but the discovery of one of the girls with a baby in May 2016 fuelled hopes for their safety, with a further two girls found in later months and the group released in October.

United Nations special rapporteurs have stressed the Chibok girls were not the only ones who had suffered violence at the hands of Boko Haram.At least 2,000 boys and girls have been kidnapped by Boko Haram since 2014, with many used as cooks, sex slaves, fighters and even suicide bombers, according to Amnesty International.

The use of children as suicide bombers by Boko Haram is also on the rise in the Lake Chad region, with 27 such attacks recorded in the first three months of 2017 compared to nine for the same period in 2016, the UN children's agency UNICEF said.

Despite having lost most of the territory it held in 2015, Boko Haram continues to wage its insurgency, which is now in its eighth year.

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