Overcome with emotion following their dramatic release, the kidnapped schoolgirls who have been freed from their ISIS-linked Boko Haram captors in Nigeria have been pictured for the first time.
More than 200 girls were abducted from a school in the village of Chibok in April 2014 by the jihadi group prompting international outrage.
However, more than two years on, 21 of the captured teenagers were released in what is thought to have been a swap for jailed Boko Haram leaders.
Last night, the freed girls, some with their children, attended a reception held by the Nigerian Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the state house.
There he met with some of the former detainees, offering them comfort and reassurance following their ordeal.
His wife Dolapo also embraced several of the girls, who had been forced to become jihadi brides during their time in captivity.
However, the meeting came as conflicting reports emerged about how the release of the group was negotiated.
It is unclear whether they were released in prisoner swap, for a ransom payment or for both.
A Nigerian hostage negotiator who was not involved in Thursday’s release told the Associated Press a ‘handsome ransom’ in millions of dollars was paid by Switzerland’s government on behalf of Nigerian authorities.
Swiss officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment after confirming that they played a neutral, humanitarian role in the operation.
However, two military officers claim the 21 girls were swapped for four detained Boko Haram leaders, but Nigerian officials deny any swap.
The abduction of 276 schoolgirls from their school in Chibok and the government’s failure to quickly free them caused an international outcry and brought Boko Haram, Nigeria’s home-grown Islamic terrorist group, to the world’s attention.
Soon after the kidnapping, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau said he would marry the girls to his fighters, saying they should be wives, not going to school.
Dozens of the girls escaped on their own, but some 197 remain missing.
In May, one of the captives, Amina Ali Nkeki, managed to escape and told her family that some of the kidnapped girls had died of illness and that others, like herself, had been married off to fighters and were pregnant or had babies.
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