Hundreds of schoolgirls have been held captive for years by Boko Haram, a terrorist group based out of northeast Nigeria. But good news arrived on Saturday—CNN reported 82 Chibok girls were released by Boko Haram after extensive negotiations between the extremist organization and the Nigerian government.
According to the report, the 82 girls are now in military custody in the town of Banki, with plans to move them to the Nigerian capital of Abuja. Once they reach the capital city, the girls are expected to undergo medical evaluations before eventually being reunited with their families.
Family members of the kidnapped girls were elated with the breakthrough, and expressed hope they'd be able to see their loved ones after years of fearing for the worst.
"I am very, very excited with this development. I cannot even sleep tonight," said Yana Galang, the mother of one of the captured girls, Rifkatu. "We're very happy that many have been freed. I hope and pray that my daughter is among these released girls."
An estimated 276 girls were captured by Boko Haram in April 2014, when the terrorist group stormed their boarding school in Chibok and forced them out of their beds. Though some of the girls have escaped over time—including up to 57 immediately following the initial capture—many of the girls have been trapped with the terrorist group for the duration of the three-year period.
As survivors have emerged over the years, stories of their struggle have shone a light on the devastating situation for the girls. Amina Ali, who was able to flee the group in 2016, revealed many of the girls were either murdered or married off to senior members of Boko Haram.
The return of these 82 girls is a great victory for Nigeria, but the work is far from over. With some of the kidnapped girls still missing or presumed dead, Nigerian officials will have to continue striving to return every last girl back to the lives they once knew.