Tue, Jul 10, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Nigerian militants release kidnapped British toddler

AP , PORT HARCOURT, NIGERIA

Nigerian gunmen have released a British toddler, days after she was kidnapped in the country's oil-rich south.

Margaret Hill, 3, has been reunited with her parents, state government spokesman Emmanuel Okah said on Sunday.

"She looks well and she is in very good spirits," he said as the child laughed in the background.

The toddler said by telephone that she was "fine" and happy to see her mother.

Her British father, Mike Hill, told Sky News by telephone on Sunday that no ransom was paid and attributed her release to pressure from Nigerian security services.

alive

"She's coming alive all the time ... She was in a bit of a trance when he first got her back," he said.

"I don't think she's had very much to eat because she's hungry now," he said. "She's covered in mosquito bites."

In Britain, Foreign Secretary David Miliband thanked those who worked to secure her release.

"I was delighted and relieved to hear of Margaret's release," he said.

"I am grateful to the Nigerian authorities for all their help and I hope the perpetrators will be swiftly brought to justice," he said.

Gunmen seized Margaret while the car taking her to school idled in traffic on Thursday in Port Harcourt, an oil industry center.

Her Nigerian mother, Oluchi Hill, had previously said the abductors had contacted her and demanded an unspecified ransom for Margaret's release.

bread and water

Oluchi Hill had also said her daughter was being fed only bread and water, and that the gunmen threatened to kill the girl if the parents did not meet their demands -- including one that the father take his daughter's place.

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

It was the first abduction of a foreign child in the increasingly lawless oil region of Africa's biggest oil producer.

Margaret, whose driver was stabbed as he tried to shield her during the attack, is the third child to be seized in six weeks. The other two victims, both released unharmed after a few days in captivity, were the children of prominent Nigerian families.

foreigners

Kidnappings in the region have focused mostly on foreign, male workers of international companies presumed to have the resources for ransom payments.

More than 200 foreigners have been kidnapped since Nigerian militants stepped up their activities against the oil industry in late 2005, and more than 100 expatriates have been seized this year alone as criminal gangs took up the practice.

Two hostages -- one British and one Nigerian -- died last year when government military patrols crossed the hostage takers' paths and a gunbattle ensued.

Hostage takers routinely issue threats over the welfare of their captives; however, no hostage has ever been seriously injured by kidnappers while in captivity.

More than a dozen foreigners are currently in captivity, including five seized on Wednesday from a Royal Dutch Shell oil rig.

This story has been viewed 2186 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top