Mon, Jul 09, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Nigerian kidnappers have demanded ransom: mother

AP, PORT HARCOURT, NIGERIA

Nigerian gunmen who kidnapped a British girl have demanded a ransom, her mother said, while police say she may be released soon.

Oluchi Hill, a Nigerian, refused to say how much cash was sought for the safe return of Margaret Hill, three, or who contacted her.

"Where do you expect me to get that type of money?" she said, weeping during the short conversation on Saturday.

Police, meanwhile, said they had received information that the girl may be released soon, said police commissioner Felix Ogbaudu, in charge of the oil industry center of Port Harcourt, where Margaret was kidnapped on her way to school on Thursday. He did not elaborate.

President Umaru Yar'Adua has instructed security forces to ensure her safe release. Police say they will not use force to free the girl, seized by unknown gunmen while the car taking her to school idled in traffic.

Police Commissioner Felix Ogbaudu reported no breakthroughs on Saturday.

The president "has directed the security agencies to make every possible effort to ensure that she is returned to her family unharmed and he remains in touch with all efforts being made to secure the girl's release," according to a statement from his office.

Oluchi Hill had previously said her daughter was being fed only bread and water and that the gunmen said they would kill the girl if the parents did not meet their demands.

Her British father, Mike Hill, has lived in Nigeria for years and works in the energy industry. He also runs a popular nightspot in Port Harcourt.

The region's main militant group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, said its fighters would help search for the missing child, and echoed the revulsion many Nigerians feel toward the kidnapping of children.

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