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82 Chibok girls released - including Grace

07 May 2017
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In the words of an Open Doors spokesperson, 'We have FANTASTIC news.' Many of you will have seen the video featuring Peter Pogu*, whose daughter Grace was taken by Boko Haram that night in Chibok. Every day, Peter's other children would ask him, 'Where is Grace?' and Peter would reply, 'She will come. Grace will come.'

Well, the good news is that Grace is one of the 82 girls who have been released. Grace HAS come. Prayers have been answered.

'Grace is out!' The message came in one short text message from field workers. They double checked. 'Are you sure?' they texted back.

'Yes, we are sure! She is out!' came the reply. And so was Maimuna, daughter of Yakubu Nkiki Maina, who has also featured in many of our reports.

'Peter's assurance to his family that Grace will come has by God's grace been rewarded,' says our source. 'Praise the name of the Lord!'

82 of the girls abducted by Boko Haram militants from a school in Chibok over three years ago have been released.

The girls met with President Buhari in Abuja. "I cannot express in a few words how happy I am to welcome our dear girls back to freedom," Mr Buhari told the girls in Abuja, according to his office.

The girls were released in exchange for Boko Haram suspects. However, over 100 of the abducted girls remain missing.

Although a list of names has been released, we are waiting for more further information from our field contacts. As soon as we have any more information we will bring it to you. In the meantime, thank you so much for your faithful prayers and support for these girls and their families, and for our wider church family in Nigeria.

'Suspects' exchanged

Accounts of the number of militants involved in the exchange have differed. According to one source, five Boko Haram commanders were exchanged for the 82 kidnapped girls.

A government statement, issued by Garba Shehu, senior special assistant to the president for media and publicity, simply said, "After lengthy negotiations, our security agencies have taken back these girls, in exchange for some Boko Haram suspects held by the authorities."

The 82 girls were taken by helicopter to Nigeria's capital, Abuja to reunite with families and meet the President. The list of names of the released girls was not made public before their arrival; some parents assembled in Abuja not knowing if their daughter would be among those released.

Government officials told media that most of the girls seemed to be in good condition and only one carried a baby boy less than 2-years-old. Sadly, some of those freed girls will be confronted with distressing news: 23 parents have died since their abduction.

How many remain?

Nearly 300 girls were taken from their school in April 2014. The nighttime raid by militants of the Islamist Boko Haram insurgency touched off a global campaign under the Twitter hashtag #bringbackourgirls to put pressure on the Buhari administration to free the girls.

Shehu Sani, a Nigerian senator who had been involved in previous negotiations with Boko Haram, said the girls were mostly 'in good condition'. One of the girls carried a baby boy less than 2 years old.

Accounts have differed on the exact number of girls that originally were abducted in April 2014, and the number remaining in captivity. Most reports put the number of kidnapped at 276; others have said more than 300 girls were kidnapped initially, but that dozens of them managed to escape in the early hours and days of their abduction. The official line is that 113 of the schoolgirls remain missing.

And we should not forget that the Chibok girls are not the only people who were abducted. An estimated 2,000 other women, girls and young men remain in Boko Haram captivity. Boko Haram continues attacks and mass abductions. For example, 13 women were abducted on 7 April, near the village of Hambagda, close to the border of Cameroon. And in late March, fighters loyal to the Islamic State-backed Abu Mus'ab Al-Barnawi faction abducted 18 girls from nearby Pulka village, according to residents.

Please continue to remember them in your prayers.

* Names changed for security reasons.

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