Armed men kidnapped an American missionary from a school in Nigeria and have demanded the equivalent of almost $300,000 for her safe return, Nigerian police said Tuesday. The Rev. Phyllis Sortor, a missionary with the Free Methodist Church in Seattle, was identified by her church as the U.S. citizen abducted from the Hope Academy compound in Kogi state.
A group of five armed men, three of whom had masks over their faces, jumped the walls of the compound and fired shots into the air at 10:30 a.m. local time Monday (4:30 a.m. ET), Kogi Police Commissioner Adeyemi Ogunjemilusi said. Speaking to NBC News via telephone, Ogunjemilusi said police believe Sortor was the target of the raid because no one else was taken and there were no injuries. Her captors contacted a friend and demanded 60 million naira (almost $300,000) for her safe return, the commissioner added.
The region of central Nigeria is not a common area of operation for militant group Boko Haram. Ogunjemilusi said he believed the kidnapping was carried out by a criminal gang.
He said security forces are currently sweeping an area of thick forest behind the compound. “We will do all within the available resources to ensure the safe rescue of the victim,” he said.
The Free Methodist Church said in a statement that the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria had been notified and the State Department and FBI were working with local authorities to rescue Sortor. A State Department spokesperson said officials were aware of reports that a U.S. citizen is missing, but declined to release any information because of privacy concerns.
Free Methodist officials said they were “calling on the U.S. church to join together in prayer for Phyllis’ safety and speedy release.”
Click here for more.