Twenty one of the 218 missing Nigerian school girls abducted in 2014 by Nigerian extremist group Boko Haram have been released in northern Borno state, according to Nigeria’s government.
According to presidential spokesman, Mallam Garba Shehu, 21 of the girls were rescued by a military helicopter and transported to the state capital, Maiduguri.
Shehu said the girls were released as a result of negotiations with the militant group, brokered by the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Swiss government. It is the first major breakthrough, since the girls’ kidnapping in April 2014.
But nearly 200 school girls are still missing, some believed to have been killed in Nigerian airforce airstrikes on militants’ positions. Shehu said negotiations were continuing to secure the release of the other school girls.
“The president (Muhammadu Buhari) welcomes the release of the girls but cautioned Nigerians to be mindful of the fact that more than 30,000 fellow citizens were killed by terrorism,” Shehu said in a statement on Twitter.
Before the release of the girls, only one of the missing 219 schoolgirls kidnapped from the town of Chibok, had been freed. Amina Ali Nkeki was found with her Boko Haram husband in the Sambisa forest, a stronghold of the extremist militia in May.
The 276 school girls initially abducted were sleeping at a school in Chibok in April 2014 in preparation for examinations, at a time when Boko Haram had been targeting schools, killing teachers and schools, sometimes firebombing school dormitories, and warning schools to close.
Several dozen escaped and the remaining 219 were taken into the Sambisa forest by gunmen.
. The group’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, announced in a video shortly afterward that the girls were ”slaves.”