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Exchange made for 82 Chibok girls abducted 3 years ago by Boko Haram

Protesters hold placards during a demonstration marking the third anniversary of the abduction of the Chibok girls in Abuja on April 14, 2017.
Nigerians rallied to mark the third anniversary of the mass abduction of 276 schoolgirls by Boko Haram, as their parents cling to the hope that they can be safely returned. Parents of the missing girls, who congregated at the school in the northeastern village of Chibok, described their kidnap as an unending “nightmare” but said the negotiated release of 21 last year had given them strength. (STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)

ABUJA, Nigeria — Eighty-two Chibok schoolgirls are free more than three years after a mass abduction by Boko Haram extremists, according to a Nigerian military official with knowledge of the rescue operation.

Family members say they are eagerly awaiting a list of names and “our hopes and expectations are high.”

The official says the schoolgirls were found near the border town of Banki in Borno state near Cameroon. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to make the announcement.

Nigeria’s government says the girls’ release came in exchange for “some Boko Haram suspects held by the authorities.”

The announcement is the first confirmation by the government of any exchange made in its months of negotiations with the extremist group.

After the first negotiated release of 21 Chibok girls in October, the government denied that a ransom was paid or that it freed some detained Boko Haram fighters in exchange for the girls.

The government statement says the freed girls are expected to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday in the capital, Abuja.