Team of 150 officers rescue 11-year-old abducted in London

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The Independent Online

An 11-year-old boy was recovering with his family last night after being rescued from a gang demanding a £50,000 ransom in an operation involving 150 police officers.

The Asian boy, who is one of the country's youngest kidnap victims, was snatched off the street by a man and a woman while walking home from school in west London on Wednesday.

Officers from Scotland Yard's kidnap unit have not ruled out the possibility that the abductors chose the boy at random.

The youngster was driven to a house nearby in Southall, west London. Within 24 hours the police were able to trace the victim and dozens of officers, some of them armed, raided the house on Thursday night and rescued the boy, who was held in a locked room. The child was described as "shocked and traumatised" but physically unharmed. The police arrested seven men and four women, all of whom are Asian. No ransom was paid.

The motive for the kidnap is thought to be financial, rather than a domestic feud or a revenge attack between criminals. Many details of the crime are still unclear, but officers are surprised that the boy was chosen because his family is not particularly wealthy or famous. His father, who does not want to be identified, owns a small business in Southall, which has a large Asian community.

The boy was walking home at about 4pm in Southall when he was forced into a car. Two hours later the kidnappers telephoned the child's parents and demanded a five-figure ransom - which is understood to be about £50,000 - and threatened to kill their son. They also threatened the family.

A team of officers including armed police and members of the robbery squad were put on the case. Using intelligence from the crime scene and information from a tip-off, the Met's kidnap unit raided three properties in Southall where they thought the boy was being held. He was freed at about 7pm on Thursday.

After a check-up at hospital he was reunited with his parents. Specialist officers are now questioning the boy about his ordeal.

Some of the suspects who were arrested are related to one other. The women are aged between 22 and 47 and the men are aged between 19 and 44.

The majority of kidnaps are so-called "bad on bad" cases involving crime gangs snatching rivals, or people traffickers holding illegal immigrants captive and demanding money from their families living abroad. In London there were 85 kidnaps last year, all of which involved adult victims. All the victims were freed, said Scotland Yard.

Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur, the head of the Met's specialist crime directorate, said kidnapping a child was very rare as most hostages were usually only taken as part of drugs feuds. He said: "Kidnap is an extremely serious offence and one that is difficult to investigate. Each is a potential murder and reaching a hostage is a race against the clock to prevent a murder from taking place.

"Anyone who commits this type of crime can expect extremely tough police action and a very high penalty."