MAIDUGURI, Nigeria, Oct. 13 (UPI ) — Nigeria’s Boko Haram militant Islamist group has released 21 of the over 200 Chibok schoolgirls who were kidnapped in 2014 to worldwide condemnation.
“It is confirmed that 21 of the missing Chibok girls have been released and are in the custody of the Department of State Services,” Mallam Garba Shehu, spokesman for Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, wrote on Twitter.
“The release of the girls in a limited number is the outcome of negotiations between the administration and Boko Haram brokered by the International Red Cross and the Swiss government. The negotiations will continue.”
BBC News reports a senior government official said the rescued girls are being held by security services in Maiduguri, northeast Nigeria. Previously, only one of the more than 200 girls who were taken by Boko Haram had been found.
Amina Ali Nkeki was found by a vigilante group in May with her suspected Boko Haram husband and her new baby while she was collecting firewood in the Sambisa Forest — Boko Haram’s stronghold near Nigeria’s border with Cameroon, where a large-scale offensive is being carried out by the Nigerian military.
In 2009, the militant Islamist group first began its campaign of mass kidnappings, executions, suicide bombings and assaults on remote military bases and villages. More than 20,000 people have been killed and millions have fled Nigeria due to the fighting that created a humanitarian crisis.
Boko Haram would later pledge allegiance to the Islamic State — becoming the self-proclaimed caliphate’s West Africa province. Boko Haram was designated a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department in 2013.