NEWS

Police free kidnapped 6-year-old

Police used high-tech surveillance equipment provided by their Italian counterparts to trace a kidnapper gang and free a 6-year-old Greek girl in a raid on a Thessaloniki apartment on Monday night. Three men were arrested and will be charged with kidnapping. The girl, the youngest victim of such a crime in Greece, was unharmed but was under observation in a hospital yesterday. She had been kidnapped on April 11 after the gang used a stolen jeep to ram and stop the car driven by her father. The kidnappers had demanded a ransom of $3 million. One of the alleged gang members, a 23-year-old Armenian named Sergei Zohabyan, worked as a waiter near the shop run by the girl’s grandfather, who sells ecclesiastical items. Police said they believed he was the ringleader. The other two were named as Dimitris Kitsikidis, 26, and Evangelos Saridis, 21, both ethnic Greeks from Georgia. The three are to appear before a prosecutor today. The Thessaloniki police chief, Nikiforos Tzetzakis, announcing the arrests yesterday, praised the Italian police for their assistance and also the Greek news media for respecting a news blackout throughout the investigation. Officers using the Italian electronic equipment managed 10 days ago to trace the gang to the apartment where they were keeping the girl and from which they called her family three times on cell phones. Police then used surveillance equipment to listen in on the gang. «A few days after the kidnapping, we knew where the 6-year-old was being kept and we followed the movements of the suspects, waiting for the right moment to intervene,» Tzetzakis said. The kidnappers had not mistreated their young prisoner, he said. «So far, it appears that the three are the main suspects but the investigation is continuing and we are looking into whether others might be involved,» he added. Police pounced at 11 p.m. on Monday when one of the alleged kidnappers went to pick up a pizza. Three different groups of officers apprehended the suspects – one in the apartment, another in the entrance and the third in a Thessaloniki street. No shots were fired.