LAGOS, Nigeria — The 82 Chibok schoolgirls released in a swap between terrorist group Boko Haram and the Nigerian government have arrived in the capital city of Abuja, the government said Sunday.
The released girls were received at the airport on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari by Alhaji Abba Kyari, his chief of staff.
“Welcome our girls, welcome our sisters,” Kyari said to the girls, who sat quietly in chairs. “We are very glad that you are back, and every Nigerian today must be forgetting every other hardship and suffering, because this is a very joyous moment. Welcome, welcome, welcome.”
They generally appeared to be in good physical condition. One has a broken arm and another has a leg injury, Nigeria information minister Lai Mohammed said.
More than 100 girls remain in Boko Haram custody and negotiations with the terror group continue, the government said.
Some Boko Haram suspects being held by the government were released as part of the negotiations, Buhari’s office said Saturday.
The girls, ages 16 to 18, are believed to be among 276 forced from their beds by Boko Haram militants in the middle of the night in April 2014.
The kidnapping from a boarding school in the town of Chibok sparked global outrage and the social media movement #BringBackOurGirls.
“I am very, very excited with this development. I cannot even sleep tonight,” said Yana Galang, whose daughter, Rifkatu, was among the girls kidnapped.
Galang said they don’t yet know who has been released, “but we’re very happy that many have been freed.”
“I hope and pray that my daughter is among these released girls,” she added.
As many as 57 girls escaped almost immediately after the mass abduction.
The next kidnapped girl wasn’t found until May 2016, when she wandered out of a Nigerian forest asking for help, according to witnesses.
Another 21 of the Chibok schoolgirls were handed over to authorities in October. The release was the result of a series of negotiations, the government said at the time.