Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Nigeria Says 21 Abducted Chibok Schoolgirls Freed in Swap

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Nigeria Says 21 Abducted Chibok Schoolgirls Freed in Swap

Article excerpt

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria * Twenty-one of the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram more than two years ago were freed Thursday in a swap for detained leaders of the Islamic extremist group the first release since nearly 300 girls were taken captive in a case that provoked international outrage.

The freed girls, most of them carrying babies, were released before dawn and placed in the custody of Nigeria's secret intelligence agency. The government "wants the girls to have some rest," said presidential spokesman Garba Shehu.

"We are extremely delighted and grateful," said the Bring Back Our Girls movement, which campaigned in Nigeria and internationally for the release of the girls, who were seized in April 2014 from their school in the northeastern town of Chibok.

"We thank the federal government and, like Oliver Twist, we ask for more," said Hauwa Biu, an activist in Maiduguri, the capital of northeastern Borno state and the birthplace of Boko Haram.

The release was negotiated between the government and Boko Haram, with the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Swiss government acting as intermediaries, Shehu said. He said negotiations would continue for the other students.

All but three of the girls freed Thursday were carrying babies, said an aid worker who saw them in Maiduguri, where they were flown by helicopter after their release, before being flown to the capital, Abuja. Many Boko Haram captives recently freed by military action have been shunned by their communities because they came home pregnant or with babies from the fighters.

Four detained Boko Haram leaders were released Wednesday night in Banki, a town on Nigeria's northeast border with Cameroon, said a military officer familiar with the talks. Just hours later, the girls were released in Banki early Thursday morning, said the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to journalists. …

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