UPDATED: Two girls aged one and three respectively who were kidnapped on Tuesday in the rural district of Hadeland, southern Norway, have been found safe and well by police in nearby Hønefoss – with three new suspects, including the girls’ father, being arrested on Wednesday to add to the three arrested the day before.
The children were recovered in a raid on a house in the centre of Hønefoss on Wednesday morning, and are now being taken care of by the state child protection services (Barnevernet). Of the three newly arrested suspects, one is the girls’ father, who had been sought by the police across Europe. The father was last year convicted of threatening behaviour in a court case that revealed a history of family conflict, but he was also acquitted of domestic violence charges against his wife and one of his daughters.
Tom Petterson, a spokesperson for the local police force, told newspaper Aftenposten after the girls were found that they were “very pleased” and thanked those who had helped the investigation, including the media for helping to “bring in information.” He confirmed that tip-offs from the public had directly led to finding the girls. He also told newspaper VG that a motive for the kidnapping had been ascertained, but would not give further details. It is believed that the kidnappers intended to take the children out of the country.
The dramatic kidnapping took place on Tuesday morning while the two girls were visiting their mother, who is of Iraqi origin, at a public volunteer centre under the supervision of an employee of Barnevernet. The children had been living with foster parents since Christmas. The abductors wore masks and sunglasses, and unleashed tear gas and pepper spray into the face of the mother as they seized the children. They also used what police describe as an electroshock weapon on another person who was present.
Norwegian police ordered restrictions at all border crossings in and out of Norway following the abduction. The first arrests were made just three hours after the original incident on the E6 highway near Sarpsborg on the border with Sweden, when two Iraqi men in their thirties were taken in by the police. One of the men’s lawyers, speaking to VG, said that his client denies any involvement, pointing to the fact that “he himself has two children.” Later on Tuesday, the third suspect, in his twenties and also an Iraqi, was arrested in a dark Volvo in Sollihøgda in Hole, an area found further south in the country.
The kidnappers had left the scene with the children in a Swedish-registered blue Saab, license number BJS 169, registered to a man in Norsborg, outside of Stockholm. No further information has been given about whether they are related or known to the girls. On Wednesday morning, police released a statement saying they were interested in speaking to a woman seen speaking to two non-Norwegian men driving a dark Volvo and speaking Swedish while she wheeled her bicycle along the street not far from where the kidnapping took place.
The police, who have received assistance from the Norwegian special police branch (Kripos) and Swedish agencies, confirmed before midday on Wednesday that the girls had been found in good condition and that three further arrests had been made. This came after the police admitted earlier that morning that they had no leads.
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