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Nigeria Chibok girls: Parents learning if daughters among those freed

AFP Picture 82 Chibok Girls Freed

Parents of the missing Chibok girls are slowly learning if their daughters are among the 82 freed by Boko Haram militants in Nigeria two days ago.

The girls' names were put on Twitter by the president's office on Sunday. They were flown to the capital Abuja. But in Chibok, their home region in north-eastern Nigeria, not everyone has access to the social media site. It is unclear if the government has made other attempts to let them know if their daughters are now safe.

On Monday, people were checking the newspapers to see who was on the list and decide whether to make the journey to Abuja, according to the Associated Press news agency. Even parents in Abuja - where the 82 girls were flown in order to meet President Muhammadu Buhari before he left the country for medical treatment - were waiting to see if they would be reunited with their daughters.

Esther Yakubu told the BBC the last three years had been a "horrible nightmare" but that even the possibility of her daughter having been rescued was giving her hope. "Whether she is among the freed ones or not, I am very happy," she said. "We started this year with 24 [returned girls] and now we have 106. It is a large number, and we have hope that, if they are alive, they will come back.

"I have never been happy in my life like today. I am a mother. I accept any child that is back. My baby will be back soon, if she is among them or if she isn't." It is being reported that the girls were handed over on Saturday in exchange for five Boko Haram suspects after negotiations - a deal which has been criticised by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), led by Senator Ahmed Makarfi.

In a statement, the PDP faction said the exchange had allowed terrorists to escape punishment and would embolden them to carry out further kidnappings, while the "piecemeal" release of the girls meant they still held bargaining chips.

But according to lawyer Zannah Mustapha, who has acted as a mediator between the Nigerian government and the extremists, some of the girls rejected the opportunity to return home. Exactly what their motivations are remains unclear, but there is speculation they may have been radicalised, or are too ashamed to return. "Some girls refused to return... I have never talked to one of the girls about their reasons," Mr Mustapha told Reuters news agency.

Boko Haram is thought to still be holding more than 100 of the original 276 girls taken from a school in north-eastern Nigeria in 2014. They are far from the only people abducted by the extremist group. Amnesty International has recorded 41 cases of mass abductions in the last three years. It puts the number of women and children kidnapped at at least 2,000.

For those parents receiving good news in the coming days, the wait may not be over. None of the 21 girls who were released in October have been able to move back home, and nearly seven months later they are still being held on a military re-integration programme. They did go back to Chibok at Christmas time last year, but they were held in the house of a local politician and the families had to go there to see them.

The 82 released in May were sent to a secret location in Abuja after meeting the president.

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