It's been three years since Boko Haram kidnapped 276 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok in Nigeria. The mass abduction drew international attention, with millions of people calling for their return via the "Bring Back Our Girls" campaign, fueling a spike in awareness and scrutiny of Boko Haram, which has been involved in many massacres and atrocities throughout west and central Africa. And now, according to reports, dozens of those girls are being freed: at least 80 Chibok girls have been released by Boko Haram, reportedly the result of unspecified negotiations between the Islamic militant group and the Nigerian government.
These 80 aren't the first to be freed from their captors. In early 2015, not long after the initial mass kidnapping, 57 of the girls escaped, despite Boko Haram's threats to kill anyone who tried to do so. Then, in late 2016, as a result of negotiations with the Red Cross and the government of Switzerland, Boko Haram released 21 more, turning them over to Nigeria's Department of State Services.
Altogether, the recent reports ― which indicate at least 80 more have been released, with CNN reporting 82, and The Guardian reporting 83 ― mean that at least 158 of the 276 girls abducted back in April of 2014 have since escaped or been freed.
It's not currently known precisely how many more of the girls are still being held by Boko Haram. Assuming they all remained alive, there would be less than 120 of them still in captivity right now. That's not a safe assumption, however ― owing to the group's well-documented history of brutality, there's no guarantee that some haven't died or been killed. Also, in 2016, Boko Haram released a video purporting to show that some of the girls had been slain in Nigerian airstrikes.
Immediately after the kidnappings, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau also stated that he intended to sell the girls as slaves, an experience which other young women captured by the group have attested to. According to the BBC, Christian pastor Enoch Mark, who lost two daughters to the kidnapping, voiced happiness and relief at the news.
Details are scant as to the terms of the negotiations that brought about the release of these dozens of girls, but it's undeniably welcome news. While the international media may have swiveled its focus onto other issues of great importance over the last three years, the kidnapped girls certainly havn't been forgotten or overlooked by the people of Nigeria, nor their friends and loved ones.