Washington D.C., Oct 14, 2016 / 12:23 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Radical Islamist militant group Boko Haram has released 21 schoolgirls kidnapped from the Nigerian town of Chibok in 2014 in a deal with the national government. Their release was confirmed as "the outcome of negotiations between the administration and Islamist militants” by Garba Shehu, spokesman for Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari.

The BBC had been told by a security official that several captive militants were released in exchange for the girls, but the Nigeran government has since denied this.

The girls were among 276 teenage girls, now mostly ages 16 to 18, kidnapped in April 2014 from their school in Chibok, located in Nigeria's Borno state. Their abduction sparked global outrage and a social media hashtag “#BringBackOurGirls.”  

Since 2014, 58 of the girls have escaped, but the majority have remained missing. In April 2016, CNN obtained footage of the girls, allegedly recorded in December 2015 of 15 of the girls identifying themselves.

Boko Haram, a militant Islamist group whose name means “Western education is sinful,” is regarded as being among the deadliest terror groups in the world. The group claimed responsibility for the kidnappings and has been in contact with the Nigerian government and has appeared in video messages about the kidnappings. Other video messages filmed by Boko Haram members have claimed that the girls have converted to Islam and threatened to force the girls into marriages and slavery.

Based in northern Nigeria and active in Chad, Niger, and Cameroon, Boko Haram has been responsible for attacks on villages, schools, and churches and has killed tens of thousands of Christians and other Muslims in recent years. The group has also resorted to using children and girls in suicide bombing missions as parts of territory controlled by the group have come under attack by local forces seeking to reclaim the area. In March 2015, the group pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.