Ransom Demand Drops for American Missionary; Gangs, not Boko Haram Suspected

ICC Note: On Monday, February 23, 2015, American missionary Phyllis Sortor was kidnapped in Nigeria by a group of masked and armed men. Though her captors initially demanded a $300,000 ransom for her release, according to local reports on February 26, 2015, they dropped their demand down to $150,000. Intelligence analysts suspect that the lowered cost indicates that local gangs in need of money are responsible for the crime rather than a major international terrorist group such as Boko Haram.

By Perry Chiaramonte

02/27/2015 Nigeria (Fox News) - Nigerian kidnappers holding an American missionary reportedly slashed their ransom demand in half Thursday, in yet another sign that they are most likely a small time criminal gang and not the feared Islamist group Boko Haram.

The Rev. Phyllis Sortor, of Seattle, was kidnapped Monday from the Hope Academy compound in Kogi State, in the central region of Nigeria by armed men who demanded a ransom of $300,000 from local authorities for her safe return. That demand was slashed in half according to local reports on Thursday in Nigeria down to about $150,000. While the ransom demands are high, it’s a paltry amount for a militant extremist group such as Boko Haram according to experts on the region who spoke to FoxNews.com.

“That’s not big money if you are a trans-national jihadist,” Mark Schroeder, vice president of Africa Analysis for global intelligence at the global intelligence firm Stratfor, told FoxNews.com. “It could be some local gang desperate for cash. Or presidential elections are coming up and this could have been a quick way for a group to extort money basically for rigging an election.”

Kogi State Police Commissioner Adeyemi Ogunjemilusi discouraged Sortor's family and colleagues from negotiating for her release.

"The general concept here is that Americans have money," Ogunjemilusi said. "So they thought that by kidnapping her, they can get money.

"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,” he added.

Local police and Nigerian security forces are trying to find Sortor, and the State Department and FBI are working with her employer, the Free Methodist Church, to find her location.

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