The girls were released on Saturday and are in the town of Banki, close to the Nigerian-Cameroonian border, according to Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris, reporting from Nigeria’s capital, Abuja.

“According to sources, this may be as a result of negotiations – but there have also been some military operations recently around that area, as well as other parts of northeast Nigeria,” Idris said.

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The armed group seized 276 pupils from the Government Girls Secondary School in the town of Chibok on the night of 14 April 2014, with 57 of them escaping in the immediate aftermath of the abduction.

Some of the schoolgirls have since been released, while others managed to break free.

Prior to Saturday, more than 80, including 21 whose release was negotiated in October 2016, had been freed.

“These negotiations have been going on for quite some time, and we were told that they continued after the release of the 21 girls – however, there were some hiccups,” Idris said, citing an escalation in fighting in recent months.

He said there were also questions around what the Nigerian government might have given to Boko Haram in return for the schoolgirls.

“A lot of people in Nigeria don’t believe that Boko Haram would simply release those girls after three years in captivity for nothing in return.”

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“We were told that Boko Haram was trying to negotiate for the release of some of their top commanders who were in the custody of the Nigerian security services. There are also some reports suggesting that they want some ransom to be paid for some of these girls.”

The abduction of the schoolgirls drew international attention to the armed group, while the Nigerian government’s failure to act quickly to free the girls sparked a global movement known as Bring Back Our Girls.

About 2 000 girls and boys have been abducted by Boko Haram since 2014, with many used as sex slaves, fighters and even suicide bombers, according to Amnesty International.

Some 20 000 people have been killed and about 2,3 million displaced since Boko Haram began its violent campaign in 2009.

Source: News24 Wire