Kidnappers demand ransom for Mikel's father

Updated: 18 August 2011 15:58 IST

The kidnappers of John Obi Mikel's father have demanded a "sizeable" ransom for his release, the Chelsea midfielder's representatives confirmed in a statement on Thursday.

London:

The kidnappers of John Obi Mikel's father have demanded a "sizeable" ransom for his release, the Chelsea midfielder's representatives confirmed in a statement on Thursday.

The Sport Entertainment and Media Group (SEM) however denied reports that the gang were seeking an £80,000 pay-off for the release of Michael Obi, who was kidnapped in Nigeria last week.

"SEM advises that reports from Nigeria of an £80,000 ransom demand for the return of John Obi Mikel's father is not true," SEM said in a statement.

"We confirm that Michael Obi has been abducted and that the kidnappers have been in touch with the family and representatives of the family and that discussions for Michael's safe release have begun.

"A sizeable demand has been made but, for security reasons, we are unable to release details of the amount.

"Mikel would like to thank his family, friends, Chelsea FC and his agents for their support and, at this time, it is Mikel's intention to play for Chelsea this weekend, encouraged by his family to do so."

Nigerian police said on Wednesday they had recovered Obi's car but the kidnapped man's whereabouts remained unknown.

Michael Obi, who runs a transport company in Jos, has not been seen since Friday when he failed to return home from work.

The 24-year-old Nigeria midfielder pleaded Monday for his father's kidnappers to free him, begging: "Please just let him go."

Jos has seen waves of clashes between Christian and Muslim ethnic groups that have left hundreds dead in recent years, but kidnappings have not been known to occur there.

Scores of abductions have taken place in the oil-producing Niger Delta region in the country's south by criminal gangs seeking ransom payments or militants claiming to be fighting for a fairer distribution of oil revenue.

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