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
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.
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.
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.
The release is “a result of the