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62 Chibok schoolgirls rescued from Boko Haram’s clutches: Nigerian official

Click to play video: 'Nigerian president’s chief of staff welcomes freed Chibok schoolgirls' Nigerian president’s chief of staff welcomes freed Chibok schoolgirls
WATCH: A group of girls released by Boko Haram militants after kidnapping them in 2014 were welcomed in the capital, Abuja, on Sunday by the chief of staff to the president of Nigeria. – May 7, 2017

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria – At least 62 Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped three years ago by Boko Haram extremists in northern Nigeria have been released into military custody, authorities said late Saturday. Family members said they were eagerly awaiting a list of names and “our hopes and expectations are high.”

Nearly 200 of the schoolgirls had remained captive after the first negotiated release of 21 girls in October. At the time, Nigeria’s government said another group of 83 girls would be released “very soon.”

“Huge numbers,” the personal assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari, Bashir Ahmad, tweeted late Saturday.

READ MORE: 100 abducted Chibok girls unwilling to return home, Nigerian leader claims

A Nigerian official who spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to journalists confirmed that at least 62 had been freed. The number could not be independently confirmed by The Associated Press.

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WATCH: Freed Chibok schoolgirls to arrive in Nigeria’s capital

Click to play video: 'Freed Chibok schoolgirls to arrive in Nigeria’s capital' Freed Chibok schoolgirls to arrive in Nigeria’s capital
Freed Chibok schoolgirls to arrive in Nigeria’s capital – May 7, 2017

Another official with direct knowledge of the rescue operation said the schoolgirls were found near the border town of Banki in Borno state near Cameroon.

READ MORE: Nigerian parents reunited with 21 schoolgirls freed by Boko Haram

“The location of the girls kept changing since yesterday when the operation to rescue them commenced,” said the official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to make the announcement.

Many of the kidnapped girls, most of whom were Christians, were forced to marry the Islamic extremists and became pregnant. Human rights advocates believe others could be among the young girls who have been used to carry out suicide bombing attacks.

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WATCH: Kidnapped Chibok schoolgirl found with six-month-old baby

Click to play video: 'Kidnapped Chibok schoolgirl found with six-month-old baby' Kidnapped Chibok schoolgirl found with six-month-old baby
Kidnapped Chibok schoolgirl found with six-month-old baby – Jan 6, 2017

The group representing the families of the girls said they were awaiting direct confirmation from the government.

“Our hopes and expectations are high as we look forward to this news being true and confirmed,” said Sesugh Akume with the #BringBackOurGirls campaign.

The Nigerian government has denied that a ransom was paid in the October release and that it freed some detained Boko Haram fighters in exchange for the girls. The negotiations were mediated by the Swiss government and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

READ MORE: Boko Haram forced out of last enclave: Nigerian president

At the three-year anniversary of the kidnapping in April, the government said negotiations had “gone quite far” but faced challenges.

The 276 schoolgirls kidnapped from Chibok in northern Nigeria in April 2014 are among thousands of people abducted by the Nigeria-based Boko Haram over the years.

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Buhari late last year announced Boko Haram had been “crushed,” but the group continues to carry out attacks in northern Nigeria and neighbouring countries. Its insurgency has killed more than 20,000 people and driven 2.6 million from their homes, with millions facing starvation.

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