Parents reunited with 21 girls freed by Boko Haram


A group of Nigerian parents have been reunited with 21 schoolgirls freed after being kidnapped by Boko Haram two and a half years ago.

The move is the first negotiated release organised between the Nigerian government and the Islamic extremist group.

The girls were embraced by their parents amid scenes of jubilation when they were presented by the government.

One of the kidnapped girls celebrates with family members during an church survives held in Abuja, Nigeria, Sunday, Oct. 16, 2016.

A mother of one of the girls said: “I never expected I will see my daughter again and I pray that those girls still left behind, that God will bring them out safely the way our own daughter came out alive.”

The girls were released on Thursday and flown to Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, but it has taken days for the parents to arrive.

Most arrived on Sunday after driving hours over potholed roads slowed by military checkpoints and under threat of attack by the insurgents, community leader Tsambido Hosea Abana said.

The parents came from the remote north-eastern town of Chibok, where nearly 300 girls were kidnapped on April 2014 in a mass abduction that shocked the world.

Family members celebrate after being reunited with the kidnapped girls during an church service held in Abuja, Nigeria.

Dozens of schoolgirls escaped in the first few hours, but after last week’s release, 197 still remain captive.

The government said negotiations are continuing to win the remaining girls’ freedom.

Muta Abana, the father of one of the released girls, has been living in Nasarawa state near Abuja.

He expressed anxiety as many of the girls were reportedly forced to marry Boko Haram fighters.

“Some of them came back with babies, but think about it: are we going to kill the children?” Mr Abana said.

“We won’t be able to kill the children because it would be as if we don’t want the girls to come back. God knows why it happened. It’s God’s will.”

One of the kidnapped girls celebrates with a family member during an church survives held in Abuja, Nigeria.

He also said the girls’ abduction has been politicised, complaining that “people’s children aren’t money, people’s children are not clothes you wear to campaign, people’s children are their pride”.

The girls are getting medical attention and trauma counselling in a hospital, said Tsambido Abana, the Chibok community leader in Abuja. Some are emaciated from hunger, he said.

There are conflicting reports about how the girls were freed, with two military officers saying they were exchanged for four detained Boko Haram commanders.

A Nigerian who negotiated previous failed attempts said a large ransom was paid by the Swiss government on behalf of Nigerian authorities.

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