Missionary kidnapped in Nigeria; FBI, State department start probe with local authorities

The US State Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are working closely with local authorities in Nigeria to find and rescue a missionary of the Free Methodist Church who was kidnapped from the Hope Academy Compound in Emiworo, Kogi state earlier this week.

American Missionary Rev. Phyllis Sortor was reportedly taken by masked gunmen who fired sporadically in the area to scare off civilians before abducting the American.

"In cases where U.S. citizens are confirmed missing, the U.S. embassy works closely with those involved, supporting local authorities in their search efforts, and providing all appropriate consular assistance," the agency said but declined to release further information.

According to the Free Methodist World Missions site, the 70-year-old Sortor is involved in leadership development and International Child Care Ministries (ICCM).

She is an administrator in the Hope Academy Compound, teaches at Wesley Evangelical School of Theology, and works in community health evangelism and women's literacy.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Police have reported that the kidnappers have reached out to Sortor's friends to demand a ransom for her safe return.

Kogi State Police Commissioner Adeyemi Ogunjemilusi said that the kidnappers may have thought that they could get money from Sortor because she is an American.

The abductors were asking 600 million Nigerian naira, around $300,000, but local police are discouraging negotiations.

"We will do all within the available resources to ensure the safe rescue of the victim," he said.

During a prayer gathering for Sortor's safe return at the Seattle Pacific University, attended by friends and family, her stepson Richard Sorter said that the entire experience is "surreal."

'We just want her to be safe and get out. We are just a working-class family, we don't have any money. That's not a huge church, they don't have money," he said.