82 #BringOurGirlsBack Kidnapped Students Released, Reunited With Families After 3 Years

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Almost 220 female students were abducted from a secondary school in the northeastern Nigerian town of Chibok by a terrorist organization calling itself Boko Haram back in 2014 and the event garnered substantial media attention with celebrities such as Michelle Obama getting on board the #BringOurGirlsBack campaign. Now 82 of them have been released after three years in captivity.

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This latest group of hostages is the largest amount released since the kidnapping, with another 21 girls being released in October last year, however, a large number of the abductees are still missing. The October 13 release was the result of a deal brokered by Switzerland and the International Red Cross and some have managed to escape their captors while others have been rescued, but  there is still a long way to go before they are all free.

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On the evening of April 14, 2014, fighters from the Boko Haram terrorist group stormed the Government Girls Secondary School in the remote town of Chibok and kidnapped 276 students. In the hours immediately following the abduction, 57 girls managed to escape, but the other 219 remained in captivity. After the kidnapping, Abubakar Shekau, leader of Boko Haram, claimed in a video message that the girls had all converted to Islam.

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Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said in a statement just last month that the government was “in constant touch through negotiations, through local intelligence to secure the release of the remaining girls and other abducted persons unharmed.” Upon hearing murmurs of this latest release, the Bring Back Our Girls organization claimed to still be awaiting an official statement, but released one of their own, saying “Our hopes and expectations are high as we look forward to this news being true and confirmed.”

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The girls abducted in 2014 might be the most high profile case, but they are barely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the terrorist group’s reign. Boko Haram’s militants are responsible for killing at least 20,000 people and displacing more than two million during their insurgency aiming to create a pocket with an Islamic steward in northeastern Nigeria. To this day, many parts of the northeast remain under constant threat from the militants, with a sharp increase in the number of suicide bombings and gun attacks in the past eight months.

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h/t Daily Mail