5 Islamist rebels released in exchange for 82 schoolgirls
ABUJA, NIGERIA — Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari expressed joy at meeting Sunday with the 82 Chibok schoolgirls newly freed after being held captive for three years by Boko Haram Islamic extremists.
“We’ve always made it clear that we will do everything in our power to ensure the freedom & safe return of our daughters & of all BH (Boko Haram) captives,” Buhari said on his Twitter account.
Five Boko Haram commanders were released in exchange for the freedom of the girls, a Nigerian government official said Sunday.
The confirmation of the prisoner swap came a day after the young women were liberated. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to reporters on the matter.
Neither the Nigerian president nor Boko Haram, which has links to the Islamic State group, gave details on the exchange.
Photos tweeted by the president Sunday show dozens of the freed girls at Buhari’s official residence.
“The president was delighted to receive them and he promised that all that is needed to be done to reintegrate them into the society will be done,” said presidential spokesperson Femi Adesina. “He promised that the president will personally supervise their rehabilitation. He also said they will continue with their education.
The young women have been handed over to government officials who will supervise their rehabilitation, said Adesina. The schoolgirls will be reunited with their families soon, said the International Committee of the Red Cross, which helped negotiate the girls’ release.
Shortly after meeting girls Buhari announced that he will be returning to London for medical treatment. Buhari was in Britain earlier this year for more than seven weeks for medical care. In Nigeria Buhari missed three consecutive cabinet meetings, prompting concerns for his health.
Other Nigerians including some parents of the kidnapped girls gathered in Abuja at the Unity Fountain to celebrate the weekend release.
Parents of the missing girls still expressed anxiety over the fate of their daughters.
The Rev. Enoch Mark, whose two daughters have been among the missing, was still waiting word if they were among those freed.
“Three years is not three days. I have to be anxious with the intention to see if one of my daughters is among the released ones.”
Nigeria’s government has committed to rescuing the 113 remaining schoolgirls.
Chibok schoolgirls freed from Boko Haram captivity were in Abuja Sunday. The government will take care of them and help them resume schooling.