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By Daniel Harris

05/07/2016 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that 82 of the “Chibok girls” were released by Boko Haram on Saturday, May 6. A government official said that the girls are currently in the custody of the military. These 82 girls represent the largest group to be released by Boko Haram out of the 276 who were captured. The girls were reportedly released in exchange for the release of suspected militants held by the Nigerian government. A press statement released by President Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, stated in part, “After lengthy negotiations our security agencies have taken back these girls, in exchange for some Boko Haram suspects held by the authorities.” The girls will be taken to Abuja and given medical checks before they are allowed to reunite with their families. The identities of the girls have not yet been released.

Chibok Local Council Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Pastor Filibus Madu, said, “It is true 82 have been released. Their pictures were posted on media but their names were not mentioned. God is answering the prayers of His people. We are grateful to God for answered prayers. The entire Kibaki (Chibok) land and the Parents are generally happy with this release. We are praying for the rest of the girls to be released.”

On April 14, 2014, Boko Haram fighters invaded a secondary school in the town of Chibok. The girls were forced into trucks that took them into the forest. Approximately 57 escaped after their capture and another 21 were released last October as a result of negotiations. According to ICC’s sources in Nigeria, during the last release the Nigerian government denied that the release of the 21 girls was in exchange for the release of Boko Haram fighters; however, this time they have been more open about the exchange.

ICC’s correspondents estimate that at least 95% of the captured Chibok girls were Christians. However, these victims are only a few of the estimated more than 2,000 boys and girls who have been abducted by Boko Haram. Boko Haram captures boys and girls to use as fighters, cooks, wives, and even suicide bombers. Nigeria’s ongoing conflict with Boko Haram has claimed the lives of tens of thousands and displaced hundreds of thousands fleeing the violence.

ICC’s Regional Manager, Daniel Harris, said, “ICC is ecstatic to learn of the release of 82 of the Chibok girls. This release is a landmark in Nigeria’s negotiations with Boko Haram. We encourage Nigeria’s government to expedite negotiations for the release of the remaining girls and call on the government to work harder to protect Christians who are victimized by the growing presence of radical Islam in Nigeria.”