Buhari Absent As 82 Freed Chibok Girls Arrive Abuja

The girls on Sunday headed to meet President Muhammadu Buhari after a prisoner swap deal with Boko Haram secured their release.

"Welcome our girls, welcome our sisters, we are happy to have you back, we are very glad that you are back", said Abba Kyari, chief of staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, as he greeted the girls at a police hospital. It was not immediately clear whether the newest girls freed Saturday would join them.

Buhari late a year ago announced Boko Haram had been "crushed", but the group continues to carry out attacks in northern Nigeria and neighbouring countries. "Our concern for the girls well-being will continue in the coming months".

The statement did not indicate how many Boko Haram memebers were being released.

Boko Haram released 21 of the school girls in October 2016.

At the three-year anniversary of the kidnapping in April, the government said negotiations had "gone quite far" but faced challenges.

Nigerian government officials confirmed the releases early Sunday.

Though Boko Haram has abducted thousands of people during its eight-year insurgency that has spilled across Nigeria's borders, the Chibok mass kidnapping in 2014 horrified the world and brought the extremist group worldwide attention.

Fifty-seven managed to escape in the hours that followed but the remaining 219 were held by the group.

Boko Haram remains active in that area. The brutality of the act sparked a global outcry, with the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls sweeping social media and unifying outraged citizens and political leaders alike, including then-first lady Michelle Obama.

" I also appeal to Nigerians not to stigmatize the girls because of the experiences". But after three years in captivity, the situation has become complicated and there may be brainwashing involved.

"Our prayer is all of them will be released", Alamson said.

Enoch Mark, a Christian pastor whose two daughters were among those kidnapped, said he was told of the release by the Bring Back Our Girls pressure group and an official in Maiduguri.

After this latest release, 113 girls still remain unaccounted for.

A military and a civilian militia source in Banki, near the border with Cameroon, said "at least 80" girls were brought to the town late afternoon on Saturday.

Boko Haram has increased its use of children as suicide bombers in the Lake Chad region, where 27 such attacks were recorded during the first three months of this year, three times as many as during the same period in 2016, according to United Nations children's agency UNICEF.

The picture was taken somewhere in Borno State in North East Nigeria. Most are still missing. "We have 82 of our Chibok girls". The first had a baby and was accompanied by a man she said was her husband but the military said was a Boko Haram suspect.

The release was the result of a series of negotiations, the Nigerian government said at the time.

Vanessa Coleman