Nigeria's Buhari meets with Dapchi girls

A girl released by Boko Haram walks with her mother in Dapchi after Boko Haram Islamists who kidnapped 110 schoolgirls just over a month ago have so far returned 101 of the students to the town, the government said. Information Minister said the girls were released "unconditionally". ( File, AFP)
A girl released by Boko Haram walks with her mother in Dapchi after Boko Haram Islamists who kidnapped 110 schoolgirls just over a month ago have so far returned 101 of the students to the town, the government said. Information Minister said the girls were released "unconditionally". ( File, AFP)

Abuja - Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari received the released Dapchi girls on Friday in a meeting clouded by the absence of a Christian student still held by Boko Haram for refusing to convert to Islam.

"We entered into negotiation solely to make sure that no single girl was hurt. This strategy paid off as the girls are being released without any incident," Buhari said to reporters at the presidential villa in Abuja.

Describing the release of the 107 youngsters - 105 schoolgirls and two young boys - as a "cheery and hearty" development, Buhari pledged to recover "every abducted citizen in Nigeria."

"While parents of the Dapchi girls rejoice because of the reunion with their children, I want to appeal to the Chibok community never to lose hope or despair. We are determined as never before to bring back our remaining Chibok daughters," he said.

A total of 113 children were seized from the school in Dapchi, in the northeastern state of Yobe, on February 19, all but two of them girls.

On Wednesday morning, 105 of the girls were brought back by the jihadists on Wednesday morning, security director Lawal Daura said.

"The insurgents' only condition was their demands for a cessation of hostilities and a temporary ceasefire to enable them to return the girls (to) the point they picked them (up)," said Daura.

"The remaining six Dapchi girls are yet to be accounted for and dialogue on these students is still on-going," he said.

Five girls are said to have died in the initial stages of the kidnapping, while one girl - the only Christian - is still being held, with Buhari on Friday promising to free her.

Leah Sharibu is still with her captors, apparently because she refused to convert to Islam.

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"It is disheartening that one of the girls, Leah Sharibu, remains in captivity," said Buhari on his official Twitter account.

"We will do everything in our power to bring Leah back safely," he said.

The girls - many dressed in matching fawn-coloured, long hijabs - boarded a Nigerian military transport plane from the Borno state capital Maiduguri to Abuja on Wednesday night.

The Dapchi kidnapping revived painful memories in Nigeria of the April 2014 abduction of over 200 schoolgirls from Chibok, a town also in the northeast, which caused global outrage.

While some of the Chibok girls have been freed, a total of 112 remain in captivity.

Boko Haram has repeatedly targeted schools giving a so-called Western education in the mainly-Muslim region as part of an insurgency that has killed at least 20 000 people since 2009.

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