Boko Haram has released 82 schoolgirls from a group of 276 they abducted in north-eastern Nigeria three years ago, President Muhammadu Buhari’s office says.
The girls were handed over in exchange for Boko Haram suspects after negotiations.
They will be received by President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja on May 7, a statement said.
The abduction of the so-called “Chibok girls” triggered a global outcry and sparked a huge social media campaign.
Before the latest release, about 195 of the girls were still missing.
The number of Boko Haram suspects released by authorities remains undisclosed.
Christian pastor Enoch Mark, whose two daughters were among those kidnapped, told AFP: “This is good news to us. We have been waiting for this day. We hope the remaining girls will soon be released.”
It was unclear whether his daughters had been freed.
A statement from a spokesman for President Muhammadu Buhari said he was deeply grateful to “security agencies, the military, the Government of Switzerland, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and local and international NGOs” for playing a role in the operation.
After the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, Borno state, was raided in April 2014, more than 50 girls quickly escaped and Boko Haram then freed another 21 in October 2016, after negotiations with the Red Cross.
Last month, President Muhammadu Buhari said the Nigerian government remained “in constant touch through negotiations, through local intelligence to secure the release of the remaining girls and other abducted persons unharmed”.
Many of the Chibok girls were Christian, but were encouraged to convert to Islam and to marry their kidnappers during their time in captivity.
Boko Haram has released a second video showing some of the schoolgirls they abducted from Chibok, northern Nigeria.
The footage released by the Nigerian Islamist group shows some 50 girls and a gunman who demands the release of fighters in return for the girls, and says some girls died in air strikes.
The Nigerian government says it is in touch with the militants behind the video.
Journalist Ahmad Salkida who had contact with Boko Haram has been declared a wanted man by the Nigerian army.
Boko Haram is said to be holding more than 200 of the 276 final-year girls it seized from a school in April 2014.
Non-Muslims were forcibly converted to Islam, and it is feared that many of the schoolgirls have been abused and forced into “marriage” by their captors.
Parents of the missing girls have described their anguish at seeing their daughters in captivity.
The video begins with a shot of a masked man, carrying a gun, speaking to the camera. He says that some of the girls have been wounded and have life-threatening injuries, and that 40 have been “married”.
Speaking in the Hausa language, the gunman says the girls on display will “never” be returned if the government does not release Boko Haram fighters who have been “in detention for ages”.
The footage concludes with footage of bodies, said to be the victims of air strikes, lying on the ground at another location.
The militant also carries out a staged interview with one of the captives, who calls herself Maida Yakubu, in which she asks parents to appeal to the government.
Maida Yakubu’s mother, Esther, is one of several parents of Chibok girls who recently published open letters to their daughters detailing the pain they feel at their children’s absence and their hopes for the future.
Another girl among those standing in the background can be seen with a baby. Some of the girls can be seen weeping as Maida speaks.
Boko Haram has waged a violent campaign for years in northern Nigeria in its quest for Islamic rule, and a faction of the group recently pledged loyalty to ISIS.
Thousands of people have been killed or captured by Boko Haram, whose name translates as “Western education is forbidden”. Many of the girls abducted in Chibok were Christian.
Nigerian Information Minister Alhaji Mohammed insisted the government was doing everything possible to secure the girls’ release.
“We are being extremely careful because the situation has been compounded by the split in the leadership of Boko Haram,” he said.
“We are also being guided by the need to ensure the safety of the girls.”
The video is the first to be seen since CNN obtained footage in April purportedly showing 15 of the girls.
The Nigerian army declared journalist Ahmad Salkida a wanted man after he published details of the new video before it was released.
Ahmad Salkida, who moved to Dubai a few years ago, has written extensively about the inside operations of the group.
The Chibok girls had been thought to be in a heavily forested area of northern Nigeria.
A girl said to be one of those captured, Amina Ali Nkeki, was found wandering in the Sambisa Forest in May by an army-backed vigilante group.
Chad has declared a state of emergency after Boko Haram attacks in the Lake Chad region.
At least two people were killed in a suspected Boko Haram suicide bomb attack.
Ministers say sweeping powers to control people’s movements are needed because the area, which borders Nigeria, is targeted by Boko Haram.
Chad has been instrumental in helping Nigeria retake most of the areas Boko Haram had seized in northern Nigeria.
In the last few months, the militant group has intensified attacks in remote areas around Lake Chad.
Boko Haram is suspected of involvement in the killing of at least two people in a village in Chad on November 8 and three Nigerian refugees in northern Cameroon on November 9.
The state of emergency will give the governor of the region the authority to ban the movement of people and vehicles, search homes and recover arms, the government announced following an extraordinary cabinet meeting.
Aside from Chad, Boko Haram attacks have spread from north-eastern Nigeria, its traditional stronghold, to the neighboring countries of Niger and Cameroon.
Chad is also host to a new regional force set up to tackle the Nigeria-based militant Islamists.
Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria agreed to establish the 8,700-strong force, but it has yet to start operations in earnest because of reported funding difficulties.
According to Amnesty International, at least 17,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed since 2009, when Boko Haram launched its violent uprising to try to impose Islamist rule in northern Nigeria.
Worldwide ceremonies are being hold to mark one year since more than 200 girls were abducted by militant Islamist group Boko Haram in Nigeria.
A procession is being held in the capital, Abuja, with 219 girls taking part to represent each missing girl.
The abduction of the girls in Chibok in north-eastern Nigeria sparked global outrage, with nations such as the US and China promising to help find them.
There have been sightings of the girls reported, but none has been found.
Boko Haram say the girls have converted to Islam and been married off.
High-profile figures such as Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai and First Lady Michelle Obama were among those who drew attention to their plight on Twitter last year under the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag.
Since then, the activists who began that campaign have spoken of relatives’ anguish at still not knowing what happened to the girls, and have criticized the Nigerian government of outgoing President Goodluck Jonathan for not doing enough to find them.
Nigeria’s incoming president, Muhammadu Buhari, said his government would “do everything in its power to bring them home” but said he “cannot promise that we can find them”.
The six-year Boko Haram insurgency in the north has left thousands dead.
Amnesty International say the militants have abducted 2,000 girls and women since the start of last year, using them as cooks, slaves and fighters.
Voting in parts of Nigeria have been extended until Sunday, March 29, after delays and a number of attacks.
Technical problems with new biometric cards slowed down voter registration, even affecting President Goodluck Jonathan.
More than 20 people have reportedly been killed in various attacks by unknown gunmen.
Incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan is facing a strong challenge from Muhammadu Buhari.
The election is said to be the most closely fought since independence.
It was postponed from mid-February to allow the army time to recapture territory from the Islamist militants of Boko Haram.
The two main candidates had pledged to prevent violence during and in the aftermath of the elections.
Several hours after voting started, reports came in of violent incidents at polling stations in which at least 24 were reported to have been killed.
Thousands of Nigerians turned out to vote, despite threats from Boko Haram to disrupt the poll.
Voters are also electing members of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
According to the Transitional Monitoring Group (TMG), the largest body observing the elections, voting had started in 75% of polling stations, while 92% had the materials they need to start the process.
Voters need to register using biometric cards with their fingerprints before they can cast their vote.
However, there have been problems with card readers at many polling stations.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said the accreditation process had “gone on well in several places”, but was “slow” or had “not commenced at all” in others.
Goodluck Jonathan tried for some 50 minutes to register in his home village of Otuoke, before coming back a second time. When the electronic registration failed again, he had to be accredited manually before casting his ballot paper.
Problems were also reported from the north’s biggest city of Kano, where thousands of voters waited for election officials and voting materials to arrive.
Gen. Muhammadu Buhari did not have any problems registering in his hometown, Daura.
Attacks were reported in north-eastern Gombe state, including incidents where gunmen opened fire on voters at polling stations.
It is unclear whether the attacks were the work of Boko Haram militants or political thugs.
Niger and Chad forces have launched a ground and air offensive against militant group Boko Haram in north-eastern Nigeria, officials say.
The campaign is said to be targeting militants in Borno state.
The move came as Nigerian officials dismissed Boko Haram’s pledge of allegiance to Islamic State (ISIS) as a reaction to military pressure from Nigeria and its allies.
The pledge was posted online on March 7 in an audio message by Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau.
Abubakar Shekau called on Muslims everywhere to swear loyalty to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Boko Haram has been fighting an insurgency to create an Islamic state in northern Nigeria since 2009, and in recent months the violence has increasingly spilled over into neighboring states.
Chad, Cameroon and Niger have already been helping Nigeria in its battle against Boko Haram.
On March 6, the African Union endorsed the creation of a regional force of more than 8,000 troops to combat the group. However, the force’s remit will be limited to securing the Nigerian side of Lake Chad, rather than pushing further into Nigeria.
As the latest offensive began early on Sunday, a resident and an aid worker told AFP news agency there had been heavy arms fire close to Niger’s border with Nigeria.
A local radio station said that a convoy of more than 200 vehicles was moving towards the area, and that air strikes had been carried out on Saturday and early on Sunday.
The Nigerian military and troops from neighboring states have recently claimed some success in their campaign against Boko Haram, and Nigerian officials said the pledge of allegiance to IS was a sign of weakness
Army spokesman Col. Sami Usman Kukasheka said the Boko Haram leader was like a “drowning man”.
A spokesman for the Nigerian government, Mike Omeri, said Boko Haram needed help “as a result of the heavy casualties and bombardment and degrading of their capacity”.
However, Boko Haram militants have continued to launch deadly attacks.
On March 7, Boko Haram was blamed for a series of attacks in its former stronghold of Maiduguri, including suicide bombings, that left more than 50 people dead.
Nigeria postponed national elections by six weeks until March 28 in order to have more time to try to improve security in the north.
Col. Sami Usman Kukasheka called on Nigerians “to be more security conscious because given the onslaught on Boko Haram definitely they are bound to spring surprises”.
ISIS has forged links with other militant groups across North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, and in January, militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan pledged their allegiance.
A market explosion in the north-eastern Nigerian city of Maiduguri has killed at least 16 people and injured several others, medics say.
Some reports say that the market explosion was triggered by a girl suicide bomber who may have been as young as 10 years old.
No group has so far claimed responsibility for Saturday’s attack.
However, correspondents say that all the signs point to the militant Islamist Boko Haram group.
The market is reported to have been targeted twice in a week by female bombers late last year.
Borno State police spokesman Gideon Jubrin said that the girl suicide bomber let off an improvised explosive device near the area of the market where chickens were sold.
Hundreds of people were killed on January 7 in an assault by Boko Haram militants on the town of Baga, following on their seizure of a key military base there on January 3.
Scores of bodies from that attack – described by Amnesty International as possibly the “deadliest massacre” in the history of Boko Haram – are reported to remain strewn in the bush.
District head Baba Abba Hassan said most victims in the Baga attack were children, women or elderly people who were not able to escape when insurgents forced their way into the town by firing rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles.
“The human carnage perpetrated by Boko Haram terrorists in Baga was enormous,” Muhammad Abba Gava, a spokesman for a civilian defense group that fights Boko Haram told the Associated Press .
Boko Haram launched a military campaign in 2009 to create an Islamic state.
The group has taken control of many towns and villages in north-eastern Nigeria in the last year.
The conflict has displaced at least 1.5 million people, while more than 2,000 were killed last year.
Boko Haram militants have reportedly abducted dozens of women and girls from two villages in Nigeria’s north-eastern Adamawa state.
The abductions have not been confirmed by the authorities, but Adamawa residents say they took place a day after the military announced it had agreed a ceasefire with the Boko Haram group.
The government hopes the Islamist group will free more than 200 girls seized in April as part of negotiations.
Boko Haram has not confirmed the truce.
Following the ceasefire announcement, the government said further talks with Boko Haram were due to be held this week in neighboring Chad.
In a separate incident, at least five people were killed in a bomb blast at a bus station in a town in the northern state of Bauchi.
Boko Haram militants have reportedly abducted dozens of women and girls from two villages in Nigeria’s north-eastern Adamawa state (photo AFP)
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
News of the new abductions came as Nigerian lawmakers approved a $1 billion loan – requested by the president in July – to upgrade military equipment and train more units fighting the north-eastern insurgency.
But they asked the finance minister to give the chamber more details about how the external borrowing would be sourced.
Security already costs the country close to $6 billion, roughly a quarter of the federal budget.
The abduction of the schoolgirls from their boarding school in Borno state sparked a global campaign to pressure the government to secure their release.
Borno is the group’s stronghold. It has been under a state of emergency, along with neighboring Adamawa and Yobe states, for more than a year.
The villages that were attacked on Saturday – Waga Mangoro and Garta – are close to Madagali and Michika towns, which have been under the control of the Islamist militant group for several weeks.
According to people in the area, a large group of insurgents attacked the villages, rounding up women and girls.
They forced them to harvest groundnuts on a farm, then abducted those who were teenagers or in their early 20s.
Communication with the affected area is difficult, which is why it takes time for news of attacks to filter out.
Other raids by suspected Boko Haram fighters were reported by residents in Adamawa and Borno over the weekend.
Since the state of emergency was declared in May 2013, Boko Haram has taken many women and children hostage and has agreed to some prisoner swaps.
Boko Haram has released 27 hostages including 10 Chinese workers held for months in Cameroon.
The hostages were flown to capital Yaounde from the country’s far northern region after being freed early on Saturday, October 11.
They include the wife of Cameroon’s Vice-Prime Minister, Amadou Ali.
They were seized in two separate raids in May and July close to the Nigeria border. It is not clear how their release was secured.
Boko Haram is seeking to establish an Islamist state in Nigeria but its fighters often cross the long and porous border with Cameroon.
Many Nigerian civilians in border towns have fled to Cameroon to escape militant attacks, which have been stepped up in recent months.
In July, Cameroon, Nigeria, Chad and Niger agreed to form a 2,800-strong regional force to tackle Boko Haram militants.
Cameroon has reinforced its troops in its northern regions.
Boko Haram has released 27 hostages including 10 Chinese workers held for months in Cameroon
The freed hostages were taken to Yaounde general hospital upon their arrival in the capital, Reuters reports.
“You can imagine that after the ordeal they are very happy to be released and very relieved,” Issa Tchiroma Bakary, Cameroon’s Minister of Communications, told the news agency.
“But they are very weak. They are in very poor physical condition.”
President Paul Biya announced their release said in a statement on state radio: “The 27 hostages kidnapped on May 16, 2014, at Waza and on July 27, 2014, at Kolofata were given this night to Cameroonian authorities.
“Ten Chinese, the wife of the Vice Prime Minister Amadou Ali, the Lamido [a local religious leader] of Kolofata, and the members of their families kidnapped with them are safe.”
No details were given on the circumstances of the release or whether a ransom was paid.
In July, Cameroon said Amadou Ali’s wife, Akaoua Babiana, and her maid were abducted in “a savage attack” on his home in Kolofata by Boko Haram militants.
Amadou Ali managed to escape to a neighboring town.
Efforts to step up regional co-operation gained momentum after Boko Haram caused an international outcry by abducting more than 200 girls from a boarding school in north-eastern Nigeria.
The girls are thought to be held in the vast Sambisa forest, along Nigeria’s border with Cameroon.
Terrorist group Boko Haram has said it has set up an Islamic state in the towns and villages it has seized in north-eastern Nigeria.
Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau was speaking in a video released to congratulate his fighters for seizing the town of Gwoza earlier this month.
It is not clear if Abubakar Shekau has pledged allegiance to Islamic State, which controls parts of Iraq and Syria.
Nigeria’s army has rejected the claim as “empty”.
Thousands of people have been killed, mostly in north-eastern Nigeria, since 2009 when Boko Haram began its insurgency.
Gwoza, which had 265,000 residents in the last census, is the biggest town under Boko Haram control.
Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau was speaking in a video released to congratulate his fighters for seizing the town of Gwoza earlier this month
It has raised its flags over the palace of the Emir of Gwoza, the town’s traditional ruler, residents say.
“Thanks be to Allah who gave victory to our brethren in Gwoza and made it part of the Islamic state,” Abubakar Shekau said in the 52-minute video.
It controls several areas, mostly in Borno state where the group was launched, but also in neighboring Yobe state.
The video also shows about 20 men in civilian clothes apparently being shot dead.
Nigeria’s military spokesman Chris Olukolade responded with a statement dismissing the declaration.
“The sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Nigerian state is still intact,” he said.
In his previous video, released in July, Abubakar Shekau congratulated the Islamic State (IS) for its advances in Iraq and Syria but did not say whether they were allies – there is no evidence that the two groups have been working together.
IS has seized much of northern Iraq in recent months, leading the US to launch air strikes.
Last week, the militants sparked global outrage by killing American journalist James Foley.
Malala Yousafzai has met Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan to press for more action to free at least 200 girls held by Boko Haram Islamist militants.
Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau has reiterated in a new video message that he is prepared to negotiate a prisoner swap for them.
He also expressed support for Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-declared caliph of a new Middle Eastern state.
Boko Haram sparked a global outcry when it abducted the girls three months ago.
Goodluck Jonathan’s government has faced strong criticism for not doing enough to curb violence by Boko Haram, especially in the wake of the kidnappings.
Malala Yousafzai has met Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan to press for more action to free at least 200 girls held by Boko Haram Islamist militants
Pakistani rights activist Malala Yousafzai, 17, met Goodluck Jonathan in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, and urged him to meet the families of the kidnapped girls.
She also met relatives of the girls on Sunday, and expressed solidarity with them.
President Goodluck Jonathan has not spoken to the relatives, exactly three months after the abductions.
The military has also failed to debrief some of the girls who managed to escape from captivity, he says.
In a statement after his meeting with Malala Yousafzai, President Goodluck Jonathan said he would meet with the parents before they left Abuja “to personally comfort them and reassure them” that the government was doing “all within its powers to rescue their daughters”.
The notion that the government has not been doing enough to find and rescue the girls was “very wrong and misplaced”, the statement said.
“Terror is relatively new here and dealing with it has its challenges. The great challenge in rescuing the Chibok girls is the need to ensure that they are rescued alive,” Goodluck Jonathan said.
After meeting the parents, Malala Yousafzai said she understood their suffering.
“It’s quite difficult for a parent to know that their daughter is in great danger. My birthday wish this year is… bring back our girls now, and alive.”
Two years ago, Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by Pakistani Taliban militants for campaigning for girls’ education.
Nigerian authorities have banned public protests in the capital Abuja for the release of more than 200 schoolgirls seized by Islamist militants in April.
Abuja police commissioner Joseph Mbu said the rallies were “now posing a serious security threat”.
Nigeria has seen almost daily rallies calling for the government to take firmer action to rescue the girls.
Boko Haram militants snatched the girls from the remote Chibok village near the Cameroon border on April 14.
Nigerian authorities have banned public protests in the capital Abuja for the release of more than 200 schoolgirls seized by Islamist militants (photo AP)
In a statement, Joseph Mbu said that public protests had “degenerated” and were now a security threat.
He was also quoted by the state-run Agency of Nigeria as saying that “dangerous elements” could join the demonstrations.
Nigeria’s government has been facing growing pressure both at home and abroad to do more to tackle the group and bring about the girls’ release.
A deal for the release of some of the abducted schoolgirls in Nigeria was close to being secured when the Nigerian government called it off late last month.
Some of the girls were set to be freed in exchange for imprisoned Islamist militants.
Thousands of people have died since Boko Haram began a violent campaign against the Nigerian government in 2009 and in the subsequent security crackdown.
The girls, who were mainly Christian, were taken from their school in Chibok, in north-eastern Borno state and are thought to be held in a remote forested area of the state, close to the border with Chad and Cameroon.
Three of Nigeria’s high-ranking traditional leaders today came under heavy bombardment from Boko Haram militants while on their way to the burial of the late Emir of Gombe, Shehu Usman Abubakar.
While the Emir of Gwoza, Alhaji Idrissa Timta was shot dead on the spot, that of Uba, Alhaji Ismaila Ibn Mamza and Alhaji Abdullahi Mohammed Ibn Askirama II, Emir of Askira escaped into nearby bush with bullet wounds.
His Royal Highness, the Emir of Gwoza, Alhaji Idrissa Timta was killed following an attack by some gunmen believed to be members of the Boko Haram
According a reliable source in Maiduguri, the three traditional rulers drove in the official vehicle of the Emir of Gwoza along with their convoy which also include police escort. They however came under attack by armed men who fired bullets sporadically on the convoy, targeting the three traditional rulers.
Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan vowed to wage “total war” against the group, which has been held more than 200 girls captive since last month.
Borno state government confirmed the attack and said the gunmen were believed to be Boko Haram members, Reuters news agency reports.
Traditional rulers have been targeted for assassination by Boko Haram before, but attacks on them are rare.
Emirs, who command a lot of respect in the north, have taken a stand against the militants.
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