An American woman working as a Christian missionary in Nigeria was kidnapped overnight, the website of the Free Methodist Church and a security source said on Tuesday.
“Early this morning we received a report that Rev. Phyllis Sortor, our missionary in Nigeria, was abducted from the Hope Academy compound in Emiworo, Kogi State, Nigeria by several persons,” the church said.
She was abducted from the Hope Academy compound around 10:00am on Monday from the central Nigerian State.
The Kogi State police command confirmed the kidnapping and said five gunmen, two of them wearing masks, scaled the fence bordering the missionary’s compound, fired sporadically and made off with her.
The missionary apart from running an NGO, is said to have secured a grazing land specifically for herdsmen in a move aimed at discouraging clashes between herdsmen and farmers.
U.S radio station, NBC station King5 reported that Rev. Sortor is an alumna of Seattle Pacific University.
Her stepson, Richard Sortor, told King5 at a prayer service at SPU on Monday night: “She believes in God, she’s doing God’s work.” He said the news was “surreal, just surreal, I can’t believe this.”
Rev. Phyllis Sortor has been working there for about 10 years.
In one of Sortor’s latest updates online there was no sign of distress. She came across upbeat, writing: “Just a little note to share the joy with you regarding the (long-awaited) opening of our brand-new (International Child Care Ministries) school in Enugu!”
A Bishop of the Free Methodist World Missions, David Kendall, in a statement on the Church’s website on Monday called for prayer for Rev. Sortor.
“The U.S. Embassy has been notified, and the State Department and the FBI are working with local authorities to find and rescue her. We are calling on the U.S. church to join together in prayer for Phyllis’ safety and speedy release,” the statement read.
No group has claimed responsibility for the act.
In Nigeria, criminal gangs have kidnapped scores of expatriates in southern and central Nigeria over the years, making millions of dollars from the criminal act.
Kogi State in central Nigeria has low level activity by Islamist militants linked to insurgent group Boko Haram, security sources say.
Reuters reports that a U.S. State Department official said authorities had heard the reports but could not make further comments in the interest of privacy.
The House of Representatives in Nigeria had put forward a bill that will make kidnapping of persons and abduction of any kind for ransom attract a life jail term.
The law prescribes life imprisonment for kidnapping, while attempts at the act, as well as abetting the crime, will receive a maximum term of 10 years.