Missing Nigeria Schoolgirls

Joy as 21 Kidnapped Nigerian ‘Chibok Girls’ Reunite With Families

#BringBackOurGirls: 21 Girls Reunited with their Parents 0:33

Amid bright smiles and joyous tears, 21 Nigerian girls were reunited Sunday with their families, more than two years after they were kidnapped by Boko Haram militants.

"I want to thank everyone for this wonderful thing they have done," one of the girls, Rebecca Mallam, told the Voice of America as she rejoined relatives Sunday in Abuja, the capital.

"I never imagined that I would ever see my parents again, but God has helped me see them, so I want to say 'thank you' and 'may God comfort all of us,'" she said.

The girls were released on Thursday, but it took several days for all of their families to reach Abuja from the remote northeastern town of Chibok.

21 Chibok Girls Kidnapped by Boko Haram Released 1:09

The liberation of the so-called "Chibok girls" — whose abduction triggered the #BringBackOurGirls campaign — came after negotiations between the government and Boko Haram, said Mallam Garba Shehu, a Nigerian government spokesman.

Shehu didn't say what Boko Haram received in return, but the BBC reported that the government handed over four imprisoned militants as part of the deal. The negotiations were brokered by the Swiss government and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The release was the first in what is hoped to be a series of releases over the coming weeks. After last week's release, 197 girls are believed to remain in the hands of Boko Haram; the government says negotiations for their freedom are continuing.

IMAGE: Nigerian families reunite
A kidnapped girl celebrates with a relative Sunday during church services in Abuja, Nigeria. Olamikan Gbemiga / AP