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21 girls released by Boko Haram are reunited with families

They were returned to their families at an Abuja, Nigeria, hospital.

By Ed Adamczyk
21 girls released by Boko Haram are reunited with families
The Nigerian government announced the names of 21 girls released by the Boko Haram militant group on Thursday. They were among nearly 300 taken from their school in 2014, and recounted stories of slavery and malnutrition at a reunion with their families on Sunday. Photo courtesy of Federal Republic of Nigeria

ABUJA, Nigeria, Oct. 17 (UPI) -- Twenty-one of the girls kidnapped two years ago by Boko Haram from their Chibok, Nigeria, school have been reunited with family, local officials said.

The Nigerian government released the names of the girls last week. They were among nearly 300 girls taken from their Christian school by the Islamist militants, who have been waging a seven-year war of separation. The incident prompted worldwide condemnation and demands that those abducted be returned.

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Those released are currently in the protection of Nigeria's Department of State Services, the government security agency, which organized the reunion Sunday at a state-run hospital in Abuja, the Nigerian capital.

The release was brokered by the Swiss government and the International Red Cross. Although the captives were handed over on Thursday to government authorities, it took days for their families to arrive in Abjua.

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In a tearful and joyous meeting, the girls recounted stories of their captivity. They were given the choice of joining Boko Haram or becoming their slaves. Those who joined were married to fighters and not seen again; those who refused spent two years washing, cooking and fetching water for the militant group. All the girls were forced to convert to Islam, and several died when food became scarce. Several others died, by snakebite, in childbirth and in a bombing that killed four.

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During their release the Boko Haram vehicle carrying them had a breakdown, they said. They were removed from the vehicle, pointed in one direction and ordered to begin walking; they walked for two days until they arrived in a town where they contacted officials.

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