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US church says missionary kidnapped from Nigerian compound

February 24, 2015

SEATTLE (AP) — A U.S. church says several people abducted one of its missionaries from a compound in central Nigeria.

The Free Methodist Church says in a statement on its website that it received a report Monday morning that the Rev. Phyllis Sortor was kidnapped from the Hope Academy compound in Emiworo, Kogi state.

The message from Bishop David Kendall says the U.S. Embassy has been notified, and the State Department and the FBI are working with local authorities to find and rescue her. Kendall didn’t immediately return a call and email from The Associated Press.

The State Department said it is aware that a U.S. citizen has been reported missing in Nigeria, where kidnappings for ransom are common.

“In cases where U.S. citizens are confirmed missing, the U.S. embassy works closely with those involved, supporting local authorities in their search efforts, and providing all appropriate consular assistance,” the agency said.

It wouldn’t release further information, citing privacy concerns. An FBI spokeswoman in Seattle, Ayn Dietrich, says the agency is trying to confirm the kidnapping reports.

Sortor’s stepson, Richard Sortor attended a prayer service Monday night at Sortor’s alma mater, Seattle Pacific University, telling reporters that “she believes in God, she’s doing God’s work,” KING-TV reported.

Sortor graduated in 1964 from the school affiliated with the Free Methodist Church, said Tracy Norlen, a university spokeswoman.

According to the church website, Sortor is the financial administrator for Hope Academy; works with International Child Care Ministries, a child sponsorship program in more than 30 countries; and recently opened a school for the children of nomadic Fulani herdsmen, who are Muslim.

Brenda Young, lead pastor with Cornerstone Free Methodist Church said she has been working with Sortor on projects to get clean drinking water to people in Nigeria.

Young said Sortor made her home base in Seattle when she was not overseas. She said Sortor and her husband worked side by side as missionaries before his death several years ago, and that her father was also a well-known missionary.

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