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Last Updated: Saturday, 7 July 2007, 14:37 GMT 15:37 UK
Nigerian gunmen 'demand ransom'
Margaret Hill's mother, Oluchi Hills
Margaret Hill's mother has been left distraught by the kidnapping
Nigerian gunmen holding a young British girl hostage for two days have made a ransom demand, her mother has said.

Oluchi Hill said the group that seized her daughter Margaret, aged three, had demanded cash before setting her free.

The kidnappers have previously vowed to kill the girl unless her father, a British expatriate oil worker, took her place.

The president of Nigeria has appealed for the girl's immediate release and has involved security forces.

Umar Yar'Adua said he wanted to ensure that Margaret Hill was returned unharmed to her family, although officials have vowed not to use force to free her from her captors.

They have asked for money. Who will help me to pay them?
Oluchi Hill
Margaret's mother

Margaret Hill was snatched from a car on her way to school in Port Harcourt, in the volatile Niger Delta region.

After previously asking to swap Margaret for her father, Mike, Mrs Hill said on Saturday that the gunmen had demanded money.

"They have asked for money. Who will help me to pay them?," she told the AFP news agency.

Crying

Margaret was snatched by gunmen at 0730 (0630 GMT) on Thursday after they smashed a window of the car as it sat in traffic.

After their first demand, Mrs Hill, a Nigerian national, told the BBC that the kidnappers told her to meet them in a town in Bayelsa State in the Niger Delta region, but that neither she nor the police had been able to locate it.

Mrs Hill said the kidnappers threatened to kill Margaret if Mr Hill did not come within three hours.

After the deadline had expired, Mrs Hill said Margaret was being fed just "bread and water".

The region's main militant group - the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend) - has offered to help find the child.

The UK's Foreign Office has called for Margaret's "immediate safe release".

The BBC's Alex Last in Lagos says Mr Hill is ill and had been due to fly to the UK for medical treatment.

Our correspondent says that no hostage has ever been killed by kidnappers in Nigeria and more than 200 have been taken by armed groups in the last 18 months.

Almost all were freed after a ransom was paid.


SEE ALSO
Country profile: Nigeria
29 May 07 |  Country profiles



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