Nigerian authorities on Friday stepped up efforts to secure the release of a three-year-old British girl after her kidnappers threatened to kill her unless her father takes her place.
"They say I can bring my husband to swap with the baby," Oluchi Hill, the Nigerian mother of three year-old Margaret Hill, told the BBC after speaking to the kidnappers.
She said that the girl's father, Mike Hill, who runs a bar in Port Harcourt, was willing to be exchanged but that police had told him not to. She also spoke to Margaret, who was crying.
She said that the gunmen had made no new ransom demand.
"We are still waiting for developments," she said.
The girl was snatched at gunpoint by a group of armed men on Thursday in Port Harcourt in the southern Rivers State as she was being dropped off for school.
The British Foreign Office, which has called for the girl's "immediate safe release," said it was in touch with the Nigerian authorities and the girl's family over the case.
A statement was later issued on behalf of the Hills.
"Everybody is trying to help us get our daughter back. We are very grateful for their support and ask the media to please leave us to work with others to try and bring our daughter home safely and quickly," the parents were quoted as saying.
A spokesman for the Rivers State government, Emmanuel Okah, said that the government was working with the relevant security agents to ensure the safety of the girl and secure her release as soon as possible.
Nigerian national police chief Mike Okiro was in Port Harcourt where he held a security meeting with the state governor, Celestine Omehia, and security officers.
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the abduction, but the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), the most prominent armed group in the region which this week ended a month-long truce, vowed to find the perpetrators.
"It is an abomination. We will search for the abductors and mete out suitable punishment at the appropriate time," MEND spokesman Jomo Gbomo said in a statement.
MEND is just one of many groups that carries out kidnappings and attacks in the Niger Delta. Some claim to be fighting for a larger share of oil resources for locals, but many are armed gangs only seeking ransom money.
More than 200 foreigners have been seized since the start of 2006 in the Niger Delta, Nigeria's main oil producing region, in unrest that has reduced the country's 2.6 million barrels per day output by around a quarter.
Most have been freed again after a few days or weeks, often with a ransom paid.
Nearly all multinational oil companies have moved expatriate families away from the region, and Britain has urged all its citizens to leave.
Nigeria's President Umaru Yar'Adua called for the three year-old to be released.
"President Yar'Adua ... appeals once again for a total cessation of all acts of violence in the region, the release of little Miss Margaret Hill and all other hostages," he said in a statement.
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