The Boko Haram group in Nigeria released 21 Chibok schoolgirls this Thursday. The militants handed over the girls to authorities after long negotiations. This is the first mass release from an incident that took place two years ago. Then, Boko Haram militants stormed a school in rural Nigeria and kidnapped all the females they encountered. The terrorist group took more than 200 girls with them and have held them captive ever since. From the large number of over 200 girls, the group released just 21 now. So the rest are probably still with the group.
Islamist Group Boko Haram Releases 21 Chibok Girls
Authorities in Nigeria were successful at taking back a small number of the Chibok girls that Boko Haram had kidnapped two years ago. The attack by Boko Haram in April 2014 sparked international outrage. The group descended upon a boarding school in the middle of the night and took as many as 276 girls and women with them. In 2014, a short time after, 57 girls managed to escape their captors.
The Islamist group freed the 21 girls together, near the town of Banki. The small town is in the northeast of Nigeria, close to the border with Cameroon. Together with the girls, the militants also released a small child that one of the girls had while in captivity. Medical personnel that checked out the child say the age is around twenty months old.
The release was a success thanks to international involvement. The International Committee of the Red Cross was part of the negotiation process, Also, the Swiss government intervened and acted as a broker in the negotiations between Boko Haram and the Nigerian government.
An International Effort to Secure the Freedom of the Girls
Alhaji Lai Mohammed is the information minister of Nigeria. He spoke to the press about the release of the 21 girls. The minister said that the Nigerian authorities see the release as a result of “round-the-clock efforts” to definitively solve the situation of the kidnappings.
“We see this as a credible first step in the eventual release of all the Chibok girls in captivity.”
Said Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the Nigerian information minister.
Representatives of the government did not make public the terms of the deal. But it was stressed that the Nigerian authorities did not release any Boko Haram fighters in exchange for the Chibok girls.
The girls left the small town of Banki after their release and went to meet with the governor of Borno state in northeast Nigeria. After that they were taken to Abuja, a central Nigerian city. There, they met Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
The release of the female students comes after an international campaign to #BringBackOurGirls. Prominent figures like Pakistani activist and Nobel prize winner Malala Yousafzai joined the campaign to free the Chibok girls. The campaign also received support from First Lady, Michelle Obama.
At home, Nigerian society and the families of the girls were putting pressure on the authorities to do whatever they can to get the girls back. Securing the freedom of the girls is a difficult process. But negotiations between the Nigerian government and the Islamist group, Boko Haram are now open.
Image source: here.