Nigeria says 82 of more than 200 school girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2014 have been released from captivity in exchange for the release of suspected members of the extremist group.
The government statement early on May 7 was the first official confirmation of the reported release of the Chibok schoolgirls the day before. It did not say how many Boko Haram suspects were let go, but the Associated Press, quoting an unnamed Nigerian official, said five of the group’s commanders were released.
Nigerian officials said the Swiss government and the International Committee of the Red Cross helped negotiate with the Boko Haram group.
The girls arrived in the capital Abuja, and according to a statement will meet with President Muhammadu Buhari.
The girls were among as many as 276 female students kidnapped by the Al-Qaeda linked extremist group in April 2014 from a government secondary school in the town of Chibok in northern Nigeria's Borno State.
Fifty-seven of the girls managed to escape in the months that followed the mass abduction.
Another 21 girls were freed in October 2016 and by January 2017 several others managed to escape.
After the negotiated release in October, government officials denied that a ransom was paid or that any detained Boko Haram fighters had been exchanged for the girls at that time.
Despite the latest release, 113 of the young girls are still missing.
Chibok is primarily a Christian village, and the girls who were not Muslim were forced to convert to Islam.
The kidnapping victims -- some as young as 9 years old -- reportedly were forced into marriage with Boko Haram militants. Many were thought to have been taken to neighboring Chad and Cameroon.
With reporting by AP, Reuters, AFP, and dpa