MS Risk Blog

Gunmen Kidnap American in Central Nigeria

Posted on in Nigeria title_rule

Gunmen in central Nigeria have kidnapped an American woman doing missionary work.

According to Kogi state police spokesman Sola Collins Adebayo, Phyllis Sortor “was whisked away at around 10:00 am (0900 GMT) Monday” by masked gunmen, with officials indicating that ransom is the suspected motive for the kidnapping. According to the police spokesman, the attack took place in the village of Emiworo, where the missionary from the Free Methodist Church ran a community organization within the premises of a school that was linked to her church. Mr Adebayo has indicated that the kidnappers were “unknown gunmen…(who) came into the school premises shooting sporadically to scare away people before taking (the hostage) away into the bush…. We are hopeful of finding her. Our suspicion is that she was picked up for ransom.” Officials have indicated that there has been no indication that Boko Haram may be linked to Monday’s kidnapping.

A statement released by the Free Methodist Church confirmed that Ms Sortor was kidnapped, with Bishop David Kendall stating “the US Embassy has been notified, and the State Department and the FBI are working with local authorities to find and rescue her,” adding “we are calling on the US church to join together in prayer for Phyllis’ safety and speedy release.”

Foreign nationals have often been kidnapped in Nigeria by local gangs who typically release hostages once a ransom payment has been made. Such kidnappings are particularly common in the southern region of the country, especially in the oil-producing Niger Delta, where expatriates working with large oil companies have been frequently targeted. A number of foreigners have also been kidnapped in the northern region of the country, however those kidnappings have been attributed to either Boko Haram or the linked Islamist group Ansaru. Such kidnappings are different to those that occur in the south as they are not necessarily motivated by a desire for ransom. In some cases, foreigners kidnapped by Islamist groups operating in northern Nigeria have been killed while in captivity.

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