Cypriot police hold four over kidnapping of Cypriot-Norwegian girl

Nicosia (AFP) - A Greek Cypriot court on Friday remanded four men in custody over the kidnapping of a four-year-old girl believed to have been whisked away to breakaway northern Cyprus, police said.

Three Greek Cypriots and a Syrian were remanded in police custody for three days in connection with Thursday's kidnapping of the Cypriot-Norwegian child from outside a nursery school in the capital Nicosia.

One of the men is believed to have organised the kidnapping, while the suspected vehicle used for the abduction was found in possession of the 33-year-old Syrian national, said police.

Police also told a Nicosia district court that the Norwegian father had emailed the mother to say the girl was with him somewhere in Cyprus, safe and in good health.

The girl would stay one week with him, then he would instruct his lawyers to arrange custody of the child.

Police said they had indications the girl had been taken across the island's UN-patrolled ceasefire line to the Turkish-controlled north via an unofficial crossing point from the south.

The Turkish Cypriot side had also been alerted to try to locate the missing girl.

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

Two masked men forcibly took the girl from her mother as she was being dropped off at the nursery, then sped off with a getaway driver, police said.

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.