More Nigerian schoolgirls to regain freedom soon

The party therefore urged President Muhammadu Buhari to be steadfast in his commitment to ensure the release of all the Chibok girls as well as others being held captive by the terrorists.

"I can confirm they have been released", said a senior government minister, who asked not to be identified, adding that an official statement would be released later.

Buhari described the girls' freedom as a "pleasant anniversary gift" to Nigerians, a reference for the second anniversary of his swearing as president on May 29.

The 82 schoolgirls were handed over to the Nigerian government on Saturday following a prisoner exchange for Boko Haram commanders.

Though Boko Haram has abducted thousands of people during its eight-year insurgency that has spilled across Nigeria's borders, the Chibok mass kidnapping horrified the world and brought the extremist group worldwide attention.

The ICRC, which along with the Swiss government has mediated months of negotiations between Nigeria's government and Boko Haram, tweeted what might be the first public image of the freed schoolgirls on Sunday.

"Remember, we told you when some 21 girls were released in October, last year, that some of their colleagues said they would remain with their captors", he said.

The kidnapping was one of the high-profile incidents of Boko Haram's insurgency in Nigeria's northeast, now in its eighth year and with little sign of ending.

She said the efforts that led to the freedom of the girls were through the combined efforts of security agencies, the military, the government of Switzerland, the Red Cross, local and global NGOs. Before the latest release, about 195 of the girls were still missing.

It is feared that other girls were strapped with explosives and sent on missions as suicide bombers.

Nigeria thanked Switzerland and the International Committee of the Red Cross for helping secure the release of the 82 girls after "lengthy negotiations", the presidency said in a statement.

Boko Haram, which past year pledged loyalty to Islamic State, has kidnapped hundreds of men, women and children in its campaign to carve out a medieval Islamist caliphate.

Some relatives did not live to see their daughters released.

  • Leroy Wright