Freed Chibok Schoolgirls to Meet with Nigeria's President

In this Oct. 13, 2016 photo, Chibok schoolgirls recently freed from Islamic extremist captivity are seen during a meeting with Nigeria's Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in Abuja, Nigeria. (Sunday Aghaeze/Nigeria State House via AP)
In this Oct. 13, 2016 photo, Chibok schoolgirls recently freed from Islamic extremist captivity are seen during a meeting with Nigeria's Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in Abuja, Nigeria. (Sunday Aghaeze/Nigeria State House via AP)

The 82 Chibok girls freed this weekend, after being kidnapped three years ago by Boko Haram extremists, arrived Sunday in the nation's capital to meet with the Nigerian president, an official said.

Femi Adesina, special adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari, told the Associated Press the the newly released schoolgirls arrived at the Abuja airport Sunday and were met by Chief of Staff Alhaji Abba Kyari.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) acted as a mediator as Nigeria exchanged some detained Boko Haram suspects in return for the girls' release Saturday.

President Buhari said the schoolgirls were freed in exchange for detained suspected extremists in the largest negotiated release so far of the nearly 300 girls, whose mass abduction in 2014 highlighted the threat of Nigeria's homegrown extremist fighters linked to the Islamic State group.

A first group of 21 girls were released in October as Nigeria announced it had begun negotiations with the extremist group. Before Saturday's release, 195 of the girls had been captive. Now 113 of the girls remain unaccounted for.

The ICRC said it had acted as a neutral intermediary to transport the freed girls into Nigerian government custody.

Long-suffering family members said they were eagerly awaiting a list of names and their "hopes and expectations are high."

The April 2014 abduction by Boko Haram brought the extremist group's rampage in northern Nigeria to world attention and began years of heartbreak for the families of the missing schoolgirls.

Some relatives did not live to see their daughters released. Many of the captive girls, most of them Christians, were forced to marry their captors and give birth to children in remote forest hideouts without knowing if they would see their parents again. It is feared that other girls were strapped with explosives and sent on missions as suicide bombers.

A Nigerian military official with direct knowledge of the rescue operation said the freed girls were found near the town of Banki in Borno state near Cameroon.

Boko Haram remains active in that area. On Friday, the United States and Britain issued warnings that the extremist group was actively planning to kidnap foreigners in an area of Borno state "along the Kumshe-Banki axis."

The 276 schoolgirls kidnapped from Chibok in 2014 are among thousands of people abducted by Boko Haram over the years.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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