By Rachel Blinder |

Masked gunmen kidnapped an American missionary in central Nigeria Monday morning and have demanded nearly $300,000 in ransom, authorities said.

The Rev. Phyllis Sortor, 70, was abducted while she was at the Hope Academy, where she works as a financial administrator in Emiworo, Kogi State, officials from her Seattle church said Tuesday.

Five armed men, three in masks, scaled the fence of the school compound at about 10:30 a.m., according to NBC News. Sortor was most likely the target of the raid because no one else was captured or injured, officials said.

The kidnappers were “unknown gunmen … (who) came into the school premises shooting sporadically to scare away people before taking (the hostage) away into the bush,” Kogi state police spokesman Sola Collins Adebayo told AFP.

Thugs then contacted a friend of Sortor and demanded 60 million naira, or nearly $300,000, for her safe return, said Kogi Police Commissioner Adeyemi Ogunjemilusi, who speculated the kidnapping is the work of a criminal gang. The terrorist group Boko Haram does not usually operate in the area, he said.

“We will do all within the available resources to ensure the safe rescue of the victim,” the commissioner said, noting that officials are combing the forest for her.

State Department officials declined to provide information about the kidnapping.

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