Two 10-year-old boys who went missing outside their school in Cyprus were successfully located after a huge search operation while a man is in police custody suspected of their abduction, Cypriot authorities said.
The schoolboys, both Greek nationals, were found several hours after they went missing and police said they are in good health after an unprecedented search that involved the general public as well.
A 35-year-old Greek Cypriot was arrested and is being questioned following the incident outside a primary school in Larnaca on Tuesday morning, police said.
Cyprus Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou said the man was not known to police and the motive could be a possible ransom, he ruled out the suspect being a sexual predator.
Phileleftheros daily reported the boys were found close to the school after witnesses said they saw them go into an apartment building.
Motive for the alleged adduction is unclear but random kidnapping of children – apart from the odd child custody dispute – are extremely rare on an island that is centred around the extended family.
The incident has shocked public opinion triggered an extensive large-scale police operation to locate the boys, who are friends.
Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades – in New York to attend the United Nations general assembly – tweeted: “Congratulations to the Cyprus Police, to all the authorities of the Republic, and the titanic effort by all the citizens who have contributed with information to the location of the two children. Thank you from my heart.”
Cypriot media reported the incident happened before the first bell of the day.
A man pretended to be a new teacher at the school had asked a group of boys for help to carry some books from his car, state radio said.
The two friends volunteered to help while others later said they declined because the man looked suspicious, it added.
The alarm was raised 45 minutes after the two boys failed to show up in class.
Apart from an air and land search, port and airports had been alerted while Turkish Cypriot authorities were also alerted at crossing point to the Turkish-controlled north of the island
Police had described the incident as “extremely serious and unprecedented”.