Kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls reunited with their families

The Nigerian government has pledged to make further exchanges to bring the 113 remaining schoolgirls home

Kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls reunited with their families

Recently freed schoolgirls prior to being reunited with their parents, in Abuja, Nigeria, 20-05-2017. Image: Olamikan Gbemiga/AP/Press Association Images

More than 80 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls have been reunited with their families - after being released by terrorist group Boko Haram earlier this month.

A party has been held in country's capital Abuja – where brightly dressed families rushed through the crowds and embraced.

The girls were released after more than three years in captivity following a deal that saw five Boko Haram commanders exchanged for their freedom.

It was the largest liberation of hostages since 276 schoolgirls were abducted from their boarding school in Chibok in 2014.

The Nigerian government has pledged to make further exchanges to bring the 113 remaining schoolgirls home.

Family members celebrate as they embrace a relative, one of the released kidnapped schoolgirls, in Abuja, Nigeria, 20-05-2017. Image: Olamikan Gbemiga/AP/Press Association Images

Yahi Bwata – a father to one of the freed girls – spoke of his relief at the deal:

“I think god for this very wonderful success and privilege – the freedom is super,” he said.

"Our joy is never complete until we see the complete 113,” he warned. “Because one Chibok girl matters to all Chibok people," he said.

There were anxious moments as parents looked for signs of how deeply the years of captivity had affected their daughters.

Many of the girls were forced to marry extremists and have had children – with some reportedly radicalised and refusing to return.

There are fears that some have been used in suicide bombings.

Family members celebrate as they embrace a relative, one of the released kidnapped schoolgirls, in Abuja, Nigeria, 20-05-2017. Image: Olamikan Gbemiga/AP/Press Association Images

The release of the 82 schoolgirls comes after a group of 21 was released in October.

The two groups of freed schoolgirls were reunited on Saturday, with Nigerian television broadcasting images of the young women laughing and embracing.

Though the 82 girls were reunited with their families, they will not go home with them to remote, rural Chibok. 

Both groups remain in government care in the capital as part of a nine-month re-integration program.

Human rights groups have criticized the government for keeping the young women so long in the capital, far from their homes – however Nigeria’s Minister of Women Affairs has said the parents can visit at any time, insisting the girls have remained in the capital by choice.