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Boko Haram frees abducted schoolgirls

Abuja, Wednesday

Boko Haram Islamists who kidnapped 110 schoolgirls in Dapchi, northeast Nigeria, just over a month ago have so far returned 101 of the students to the town, the government said today. Information Minister Lai Mohammed said the girls were released “unconditionally”.

“No money changed hands,” he told reporters in the capital, Abuja. He added: “As of now, the number of girls confirmed to have been released is at 101.” Fatima Gremah, 13, who was among those released, earlier told reporters: “Boko Haram said we were lucky we were young and also Muslims.

“One of us who is a Christian has been left behind. They said they would keep her until she converted. “If she converts, they will release her. She is the only one among us left behind.”

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari said last week the government had “chosen negotiation” to secure the return of the Dapchi girls rather than use military force.

Mohammed had earlier said their release was the result of “back-channel efforts” with the help of “some friends of the country”, without elaborating. Military operations in and around Dapchi had been suspended “to ensure free passage” of the girls and also to ensure “that lives were not lost”, he added.

Nigeria’s presidency said separately the girls were in the custody of the country’s intelligence agency, the Department of State Services. The Dapchi kidnapping on February 19 brought back painful memories of a similar abduction in Chibok in April 2014, when more than 200 girls were taken. -AFP

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