Freed American had ransom paid by family after hostage policy shifts

The United States does not negotiate hostage ransom with terrorists, but new policies allow families to privately raise ransom with the federal government facilitating communication between the parties. This new policy allowed the release of American Phyllis Sortor in March, her family confirmed Thursday.

Free Methodist Reverend Phyllis Sortor, 72, was kidnapped from her church academy compound in Emiworo, in Kogi State, in February and released 12 days later on a trail leading to the city of Lokoja hours after her family paid a ransom, her sister and a church official said.

The new approach was drawn up over six months after complaints by families that their efforts to free relatives had been discouraged and sometimes blocked by officials who threatened legal action if they raised a ransom privately.

It allows “communication with hostage takers by our government, the families of hostages or third parties who help these families,” President Obama said.

Opponents believe these policies might encourage more groups to kidnap American’s abroad, but bringing U.S. citizens home from foreign imprisonment is always an easy sell to the public.