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Girl snatched in Cyprus, sparking manhunt for Norwegian father

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Girl snatched in Cyprus, sparking manhunt for Norwegian father
Cypriot police officers escort one of three Norwegian men accused of trying to kidnap a child in February 2016. Photo: Iakovos Hatzistavrou/AFP/NTB Scanpix
07:55 CEST+02:00
Cyprus police said on Friday they have made four arrests in connection with the abduction of a four-year-old girl from outside a nursery school as they pressed a widening search.

Authorities issued a European arrest warrant for the child's Norwegian father who is separated from the girl's Greek Cypriot mother with whom he has been engaged in a bitter custody battle.

Police said that they had found a vehicle at the home of one of the four people arrested which they believe was used in Thursday's kidnapping in the capital Nicosia.

Masked men abducted a four-year-old girl outside a nursery in the Cypriot capital on Thursday, sparking a search by police who issued an arrest warrant for her Norwegian father.

The girl was snatched and forcibly taken from her mother as she was dropping her off at the nursery in Nicosia, police said.

The two masked men got into a black jeep with a getaway driver before they sped away, they said.

Police issued an arrest warrant for the girl's father, who is separated from her Greek Cypriot mother and lives in Norway.

"A big operation is currently underway to locate her and police are on alert at all the crossing points, ports and airports within the Republic of Cyprus," said police spokesman Andreas Angelides prior to the arrests.

"We are calling on the public with any information as to the vehicle in question or the whereabouts of a girl matching the description to contact us at once," Angelides told state television.

The girl is now with her father, media in Norway reported, but their whereabouts are unknown.

"My client has indicated that he has been reunited with his daughter and that they are fine. I can't comment on the case beyond that," his lawyer Morten Engesbak said, quoted by the Aftenposten newspaper.

Policing in Cyprus is complicated by the island's decades-old division.

A breakaway Turkish Cypriot administration in the north is recognised only by Turkey and has no extradition agreement with any other country.

There are multiple crossing points between the two sides, including in the heart of the divided capital. 

READ ALSO: Child welfare or 'kidnapping'? Parental anguish in Norway

It is widely believed the abduction is related to a previous kidnapping attempt last year.

In February 2016, an alleged Norwegian mercenary and two other men were taken into custody at a Nicosia crossing point into breakaway northern Cyprus -- a potential escape route for kidnappings.

Their detention came after reports they had come to the island to take the child from her mother.

"The child's mother had secured an injunction from Cyprus to have the child returned to her from the father -- who is Norwegian and whom she had separated from," Angelides told the Cyprus Weekly newspaper at the time.

The men were eventually released due to lack of evidence and deported from Cyprus.

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