Nigerian Schoolgirls Swapped for Boko Haram commanders

Thursday, May 11, 2017 Written by 
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Chibok girls released after 3 years in captivity.


Chibok school girls recently freed from Boko Haram captivity are seen in Abuja, Nigeria, Sunday, May 7, 2017.  (AP Photo/ Olamikan Gbemiga)


It’s been 3 long, grueling years of not knowing if their loved ones were dead or alive, but Nigerian activists kept applying pressure to their government to find and bring their girls back.  And last week, it finally happened.  Nigerian officials reported that 83 women kidnapped from the all-girl Chibok School were released in exchange for five Boko Haram commanders.  The Nigerian extremist group has been tied to the Islamic State group and were responsible for the 2014 abduction of 276 girls.


Families rushed to greet the girls who were flown by military helicopters from northeastern Nigeria to Abuja, the capital, where they were expected to meet the president.


"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, acting representative of UNICEF Nigeria.


Authorities say 113 of the 276 schoolgirls remain missing.  Some girls escaped, some died from illness, and others—according to the freed girls—did not want to come home because they'd been radicalized by their captors. 


Last year in October, 21 other Chibok girls were liberated, and they have been undergoing counseling for months. It was not immediately clear whether the newest girls freed Saturday would join them. 


Those girls are still in government care in Abuja for medical attention, trauma counseling and rehabilitation, according to the government. Human rights groups have criticized the decision to keep the girls in custody in Abuja, nearly 900 kilometers (560 miles) from Chibok.


The newly freed schoolgirls should be quickly released to their families and not be subjected to lengthy government detention, Amnesty International's Nigeria office said, adding that they don't deserve to be put through a "publicity stunt" and deserve privacy. 


The failure of Nigeria's former government to act quickly to free the girls sparked a global Bring Back Our Girls movement; U.S. first lady Michelle Obama posted a photo with its logo on social media.


The International Committee of the Red Cross and the Swiss government mediated negotiations between Nigeria's government and Boko Haram.


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