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Chibok girls in health checkups before Buhari meeting

The 82 girls, released in a prisoner swap, arrive in Abuja for health checkups before meeting the president.

Chibok schoolgirls

Eighty-two of the 200 Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped by Nigerian armed group Boko Haram arrived in Abuja on Sunday and were undergoing health checkups before meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari.

The presidency said the girls were freed after "lengthy negotiations" in exchange for Boko Haram fighters held by the government.

The girls were met at the capital’s airport by Buhari’s chief of staff, Abba Kyari.

Their kidnapping three years ago sparked global outrage and spurred the movement Bring Back Our Girls.

Aisha Yesufu of the campaign said: "It's such a good day today. We have 82 of our Chibok girls."

Some 113 young women are still missing, however, she said.

Anxious for good news

It is the largest release since Boko Haram fighters stormed a secondary school in Chibok in northeastern Nigeria in April 2014 and seized 276 teenaged girls who were preparing to sit high school exams.

Fifty-seven managed to escape in the hours that followed, but the remaining 219 were held by the armed group. Twenty-one were 21 freed in previous negotiations in October and three were rescued by the military. 

The girls have become a symbol of the Nigerian conflict.

Enoch Mark, a Christian pastor whose two daughters were among the kidnapped, said of the latest releases: "This is good news to us. We have been waiting for this day. We hope the remaining girls will soon be released,” he told AFP news agency.

It was not clear if his daughters were among those freed.

The Nigerian government said it was committed to securing the release of all hostages held by Boko Haram.

"The president has said that as many of the girls are alive, his administration will strive to get them back," Femi Adesina, a spokesman for the president, said.

"So 21, and 82 now, plus three that were recovered by the military, till the very last of the girls are recovered, the Nigerian government will stay on the matter."

Yesufu said the freed girls require rehabilitation after three years in captivity. 

"It's not just to bring them back home, we must ensure that they get the education they are supposed to have," she said.

"It is time for them to be reunited with their families. Psychosocial therapy ... there has to be rehabilitation. And at the end of the day, we want to have world leaders out of every one of them so that they can be what the terrorists did not want them to be."

In a statement, the UN's children agency said it was heartening that the girls would finally be reunited with their families after so much time. 

"They will face a long and difficult process to rebuild their lives after the indescribable horror and trauma they have suffered at the hands of Boko Haram," said Pernille Ironside from UNICEF Nigeria. 

"UNICEF calls on Boko Haram to end all grave violations against children, especially the abduction of children and the sexual abuse and forced marriage of girls."

Boko Haram has used kidnapping as a weapon of war, seizing thousands of women and children, and forcibly recruiting young men and boys into their ranks.

In a less publicised attack in November 2014, some 300 children were among about 500 people kidnapped from the town of Damasak, on the border with Niger, in the far north of Borno state. Most are still missing.

Boko Haram's seven-year uprising has killed more than 20,000 people and driven 2.6 million from their homes.

The Nigerian government has claimed that Boko Haram has been defeated, but the armed group continues to stage attacks in the northeast, often using child suicide bombers. 


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