In Summary
  • 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.
  • A military and a civilian militia source in Banki, near the border with Cameroon, said "at least 80" girls were brought to the town late afternoon on Saturday and taken to military barracks.
  • The audacious kidnapping brought the insurgency to world attention, triggering global outrage that galvanised support from the former US first lady Michelle Obama and Hollywood stars.

Nigeria on Saturday said it had negotiated the release of 82 of the more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram Islamists in April 2014, securing their freedom in a prisoner swap deal.

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.

"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.

A military and a civilian militia source in Banki, near the border with Cameroon, said "at least 80" girls were brought to the town late afternoon on Saturday and taken to military barracks.

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.

SYMBOL OF THE CONFLICT

Boko Haram fighters 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.

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

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau, whose fight to create a hard line Islamic state in northeast Nigeria has left at least 20,000 dead since 2009, claimed in a video message that they had converted to Islam.

The audacious kidnapping brought the insurgency to world attention, triggering global outrage that galvanised support from the former US first lady Michelle Obama and Hollywood stars.

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