The four young sons of a South African Indian-origin businessman have been safely returned to their parents after they were abducted on their way to school three weeks ago by armed gunmen.
Police confirmed that Zidan (who turned 7 on Saturday while in captivity), Zayyad, 11, Alaan, 13, and Zia, 15 , the sons of businessman Nazim Moti, who is based in Polokwane, were found unharmed and in good spirits on Wednesday evening.
The boys were abducted by seven armed men wearing white overalls in two vehicles that blocked the car they were travelling in on their way to school on October 21. The driver was left unharmed.
Police spokesman Vish Naidoo said police received a call from residents of Tshwane in Pretoria, who said the four children arrived at their house, saying that they were dropped off at a road nearby.
The children were first medically examined before being handed over to their ecstatic parents.
“The doctor said they were in good health and our observation when they were handed back to their parents was that they were in very high spirits,” Naidoo said, adding that a team of forensic and clinical psychologists would visit the family on Thursday to interview the boys to see what information they could provide.
Naidoo said they did not want to exhaust the children too much after their ordeal.
“The important thing now is to see what information we can get from them to help us in tracing and successfully arresting those that were responsible for this kidnapping,” Naidoo said.
Naidoo dismissed suggestions that the police had been unable to make headway in the case as people across the country prayed for the safe return of the boys.
“We have not spoken about this as in all kidnapping cases, because we believe that speaking about it publicly had the potential of placing the lives of the children to greater risk,” Naidoo said.
“A lot of work has been done already and whether the release was a result of (the police) closing the net on the kidnappers or not is still to be determined, but there was a multi-disciplinary integrated team put into place from the time that the report was made to us that the children were kidnapped. A large team of specialised police officers countrywide had been deployed to investigate the case," he said.
No information was available on whether any ransom was paid for the release of the children.
Earlier Martin Ewi, a senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies and an expert on organised crime in Africa, said he believed that a ransom was involved.
''When children are abducted, it's usually children of rich families. Criminals will spot a child, notice that the family is wealthy and think Here is a chance to make some money,” Ewi told the Afrikaans news service Netwerk 24.