Nigerian gunmen call girl's mother, make threats

  • World
  • Friday, 06 Jul 2007

PORT HARCOURT, Nigeria (Reuters) - The Nigerian kidnappers of a three-year-old British girl have told her mother they wanted to swap the child for the father or they would kill her, the mother said on Friday. 

Abductions for ransom are extremely frequent in southern Nigeria -- though children have rarely been targeted -- and in several past cases kidnappers have threatened to kill hostages. 

No such threat has been carried out and hostages are usually released unharmed in exchange for money. 

The toddler, Margaret Hill, was snatched on Thursday morning from the car in which she was being driven to school in Port Harcourt in the oil-producing Niger Delta. 

"The people who are holding her just called again and they were threatening to kill the baby," said Oluchi Hill, Margaret's mother, by telephone from Port Harcourt. 

"They accused me of trying to play games with them," said Hill, who was crying as she spoke. "They said they had given her only water and bread this morning," she added. 

Hill said the line had cut off during the conversation and she did not want to stay on the phone for long in case the kidnappers called again. 

Earlier, the BBC quoted Hill as saying the kidnappers had called demanding a meeting in a place she didn't know in neighbouring Bayelsa state where they would exchange the child for the father, Mike Hill. 

"They say I can bring my husband to swap with the baby," she was quoted as saying. "He wanted to go down for his baby but the police commander told him not to." 

The BBC report said the kidnappers had allowed Margaret to speak to her mother on the telephone and the girl was crying. 

Police in Port Harcourt could not immediately be reached for comment. 

About 200 adult expatriates have been kidnapped in the Niger Delta since the start of 2006 and 15 are still being held by various armed groups. Most abductions are for ransom although a few have been politically motivated. 

The abduction of Margaret Hill is the third child kidnapping this year, according to local media. 

Nigerian newspapers reported last month that the three-year-old son of a member of the Rivers state House of Assembly was kidnapped and handed back to the family unharmed in exchange for money. There were also reports earlier in the year of another child abduction for ransom. 

(Additional reporting by Austin Ekeinde) 

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