Freed Chibok girls meet families after 3 years in captivity

 abc.net.au  5/20/2017 7:14:03 PM 

Posted May 21, 2017 05:14:03

The 82 Nigerian schoolgirls recently released after more than three years in Boko Haram captivity have been reunited with their families in the capital Abuja.

Key points:

  • The 82 girls were released in exchange for five Boko Haram commanders
  • The girls have to complete a nine-month reintegration program
  • 113 Chibok schoolgirls remain in Boko Haram captivity

Brightly dressed families rushed through the crowd and embraced.

One small group sank to their knees, with a woman raising her hands as if praising in church.

Some danced, others were in tears.

"I am really happy today, I am Christmas and new year, I am very happy and I thank God," one mother said.

This month's release was the largest liberation of hostages since 276 Chibok schoolgirls were abducted from their boarding school in 2014.

Five commanders from the extremist group were exchanged for the girls' freedom, and Nigeria's government has said it would make further exchanges to bring the 113 remaining schoolgirls home.

"Our joy is never complete until we see the complete 113, because one Chibok girl matters to all Chibok people," said a parent of one of the freed schoolgirls, Yahi Bwata.

Thousands kidnapped during deadly insurgency

Many of the girls, most of them Christians, were forced to marry extremists and have had children.

Some have been radicalized and have refused to return, and it is feared that some have been used in suicide bombings.

  • Boko Haram, which means "Western education is sinful", is loosely modelled on the Taliban movement in Afghanistan.
  • The group considers all who do not follow its strict ideology as infidels, whether they are Christian or Muslim.
  • It demands the adoption of Sharia law in all of Nigeria.
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The mass abduction in April 2014 brought international attention to Boko Haram's deadly insurgency in northern Nigeria, and it launched a global Bring Back Our Girls campaign that drew the backing of some celebrities, including former US first lady Michelle Obama.

Thousands have been kidnapped during the extremists' eight-year insurgency and more than 20,000 have been killed.

Nigeria's government has acknowledged negotiating with Boko Haram for their release, with mediation help from the Swiss government and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Since the latest release, many families in the remote Chibok community had been waiting for word on whether their daughters were among them. A government list of names was circulated, and parents were asked to confirm the freed girls' identities through photos.

Both groups of freed girls have been in government care in the capital as part of a nine-month reintegration program, but human rights groups have criticised the government for keeping the young women so long in the capital and so far from their homes.

AP

Topics: unrest-conflict-and-war, nigeria

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