Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari is set to meet Sunday with 82 Chibok schoolgirls freed this weekend after being kidnapped three years ago by Boko Haram extremists, while the International Committee of the Red Cross released an image of the girls boarding a helicopter to safety. The girls have landed in the capital, Abuja, reports the AP. The president 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 who are 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." A Nigerian military official with knowledge of the rescue said the freed girls were 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 group was actively planning to kidnap foreigners in an area of Borno state "along the Kumshe-Banki axis." "This is a very, very exciting news for us that we have over 80 of our girls coming back again," Bukky Shonibare with the #BringBackOurGirls campaign told Sky TV. "Their life in captivity has been one that depicts suffering, it depicts the fact that they have been starved, abused."