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Nigerian Kidnappers Free British Child


Kidnappers in Nigeria have released a three-year-old British girl they had been holding since Thursday.

Nigerian officials in Port Harcourt, in the country's southern oil-producing region, say the girl is healthy, and that no ransom was paid to win her freedom.

British Foreign Minister David Miliband says he is grateful to Nigerian authorities for their determined efforts to rescue three-year-old Margaret Hill. Nigerian President Umaru Yar-Adua had issued a personal appeal for her release.

Unidentified gunmen snatched Margaret from a car as she was being driven to school in Port Harcourt Thursday morning. The child's Nigerian-born mother said the kidnappers contacted the family, at first threatening to kill the girl and then demanding an unspecified amount of cash.

Margaret's mother told a reporter her daughter appears to be fine, but that she had been bitten by mosquitos. She took the child for a hospital checkup after they were reunited Sunday.

Kidnappings occur frequently in Nigeria's southern delta region, but children seldom are targeted. Margaret is believed to be the first child of foreign nationality seized in the area.

Amid widespread publicity about the girl's abduction, a high-profile rebel group, the Movement for Emancipation of the Niger Delta, denounced the kidnapping as an "abomination."

Kidnap gangs seized more than 200 people in the delta region during the past year; most were released, usually after payment of a ransom. Militants have staged some of the abductions to emphasize their demand that Nigeria's poor should receive a greater share of the region's oil profits.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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