ABUJA, Nigeria – The armed men who abducted an American missionary earlier this week in southern Nigeria have demanded a ransom of nearly $300,000, police said Wednesday.
Rev. Phyllis Sortor was kidnapped from the Hope Academy compound in Emiworo, Kogi state on Monday morning, police and the Free Methodist Church said.
Kogi State Police Commissioner Adeyemi Ogunjemilusi, along with senior police officers, including the head of the investigation unit and an officer from counter-terrorism unit, visited the site of the abduction Wednesday.
The Rev. Jacob Ahiaba of the Free Methodist Church there told police that Sortor went out on Monday morning to attend a meeting to try to acquire more land for a farm project, the commissioner said. She returned around 10 a.m. (local time) and was abducted shortly after by five armed men, he said.
Ogunjemilusi said the kidnappers are now demanding a ransom of 60 million naira ($300,000.)
"The general concept here is that Americans have money. So they thought that by kidnapping her, they can get money," he said. "We don't think it's a good idea for the family to negotiate with the abductors on the ransom because we are sure we will find her."
Police are collaborating with security forces to make sure Sortor's return is secured.
According to the church website, Sortor is the financial administrator for Hope Academy; works with International Child Care Ministries, a child sponsorship program in more than 30 countries; and recently opened a school for the children of nomadic Fulani herdsmen, who are Muslim.
Sortor is also working on a project to mitigate disputes between local Fulani cow herders and farmers — which includes teaching the Fulani cow herders new techniques on how to lead their livestock to graze without encroaching on farmers' land, the police commissioner said.
The church operates within the campus of Hope Academy. The farm is about a kilometer (mile) away.
The State Department Tuesday said it is aware that a U.S. citizen has been reported missing in Nigeria, where kidnappings for ransom are common, and that in such cases the embassy works with those involved "providing all appropriate consular assistance,"