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Nigerian president meets 82 Chibok schoolgirls freed after Boko Haram ordeal

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed joy at meeting the 82 Chibok schoolgirls freed after being held captive for three years by Boko Haram Islamic extremists.

"We've always made it clear that we will do everything in our power to ensure the freedom & safe return of our daughters & of all BH (Boko Haram) captives," Mr Buhari said on his Twitter account.

Photos tweeted by the president show dozens of the freed girls at his official residence.

"The president was delighted to receive them and he promised that all that is needed to be done to reintegrate them into the society will be done," said presidential spokesman Femi Adesina.

"He promised that the presidency will personally supervise their rehabilitation. He mentioned that they will continue with their education.

The young women have been handed over to government officials who will supervise their rehabilitation, said Mr Adesina. The schoolgirls will be reunited with their families soon, said the International Committee of the Red Cross, which helped negotiate the girls' release.

Shortly after meeting the freed schoolgirls Mr Buhari announced that he will be returning to London for medical treatment.

He was in Britain earlier this year for more than seven weeks for medical care. In Nigeria Mr Buhari missed three consecutive Cabinet meetings, prompting concerns for his health.

Other Nigerians including some parents of the kidnapped girls gathered in Abuja at the Unity Fountain to celebrate the weekend release.

Parents of the missing girls expressed anxiety over the fate of their daughters.

The Rev Enoch Mark, whose two daughters have been among the missing, was still waiting word if they were among those freed. He emphasised though that he considered all 82 of the girls to be his daughters "because most of them worship in my church".

"Three years is not three days," he said. "I have to be anxious with the intention to see if one of my daughters is among the released ones."

Some parents did not live long enough to see their daughters released, underscoring the tragedy of the three-year saga. And the recovery process is expected to be a long one for the girls, many of whom endured sexual assault during their time in captivity.

"They will face a long and difficult process to rebuild their lives after the indescribable horror and trauma they have suffered at the hands of Boko Haram," said Pernille Ironside, acting representative of Unicef Nigeria.

Authorities say 113 schoolgirls remain missing from the group of 276 abducted from their boarding school in April 2014. Girls who escaped early on said some of their classmates had died from illness. Others did not want to come home because they had been radicalised by their captors, they said.

Human rights advocates also fear some of the girls kidnapped from the Chibok boarding school have been used by Boko Haram to carry out suicide bombings.

Last year, a first group of 21 Chibok girls was freed in October, and they have been in government care in Abuja for medical attention, trauma counselling and rehabilitation.

Human rights groups have criticised the decision to keep the girls in custody in Abuja, nearly 560 miles from Chibok. It was not immediately clear whether the newly freed girls would join them.

Five Boko Haram commanders were released in exchange for the freedom of the 82 Chibok schoolgirls, a Nigerian government official said.

AP

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