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21 Chibok girls freed: Timeline of events
01:26 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

New: A toddler born to one of the girls was also released, officials say

No Boko Haram fighters released in exchange for freed girls, source says

The militants kidnapped 276 girls from school in 2014

CNN  — 

Boko Haram militants handed over 21 Chibok schoolgirls to authorities Thursday after a series of negotiations, Nigeria’s government said, in the first mass release of any of the more than 200 girls and women kidnapped from their school two years ago.

The 21 were freed before dawn in the northeastern Nigerian town of Banki, near the border with Cameroon, a source close to the negotiations said on condition of anonymity.

Some of the 21 freed girls appear Thursday in Banki, Nigeria, in a photo obtained exclusively by CNN.

They are said to have been among the 276 girls and women, ages 16 to 18, that Boko Haram militants herded from bed in the middle of the night at a boarding school in Chibok in April 2014 – a kidnapping that spurred global outrage.

A child born to one of the girls and believed by medical personnel to be about 20 months old also was released, according to the Nigerian president’s office.

As many as 57 girls escaped almost immediately in 2014, and one was found this spring. Just under 200 remain unaccounted for after their release.

September: Chibok girls’ parents react to new Boko Haram video

Some of the Chibok girls go free Thursday after being handed over to Nigerian authorities.

The International Committee of the Red Cross and the Swiss government brokered the deal between the Islamist militant group and the Nigerian government, said Mallam Garba Shehu, spokesman for Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari.

‘First step’

The release is “a result of the