Phyllis Sortor, an American missionary who was abducted by gunmen on February 23 in the village of Emiworo in Kogi state has been rescued and handed over to US government officials.
The 71-year-old missionary appeared unharmed with no visible signs of abuse. Kogi state police chief, Adeyemi Ogunjemilusi said that the woman was dropped by her captors in the bushlands outside the village of Eru and “raised an alarm which attracted the villagers”
Giving further details about her release, Kogi state police command said, “She has been rescued and given to the American authorities,” adding that no ransom was paid “as far as police are concerned.”
Her church however confirmed the release but declined to provide details on the circumstances that led to her capture.
“As a matter of sound policy, and to help protect the many, those who helped secure Phyllis’ freedom, we will have no comment concerning the efforts that were undertaken to secure her release,” Bishop David Kendall said in a statement.
US embassy officials in Abuja were not immediately available to comment.
Sortor had spent years living in Africa, including Mozambique – where she spent much of her childhood – later working in Rwanda and, since 2005, Nigeria, Kendall said
Her work in Kogi was focused primarily on educational development and conflict resolution between nomadic herdsmen and farming communities who frequently clash in central Nigeria’s Middle Belt region, the church statement further said.
Foreign nationals have often been kidnapped in Nigeria by local gangs who typically release hostages following a ransom payment.
Such abductions are especially common in the southern, oil-producing Niger Delta, where expatriates working with large oil companies have been a frequent target.
A number of foreigners have also been kidnapped in the north of the country, but those attacks claimed by Boko Haram or the associated Islamist group Ansaru are considered a different phenomenon, and not necessarily motivated by a desire for ransom.
Boko Haram has been blamed for previous attacks in Kogi, including two raids targeting the same prison in 2012 and 2014.
Nigeria’s Islamists groups have in the past publicly claimed the abduction of expatriates and the lack of such a claim following Sortor’s kidnapping led many to believe that Boko Haram and its affiliates were not involved.