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French girl's kidnapping was 'Chechen wedding tradition'

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17:19 CEST+02:00

A teenage girl whose forceful bundling into a BMW in the south of France sparked a nationwide appeal for witnesses was the victim of a traditional Chechen pre-marriage kidnapping, it emerged on Friday.

Witnesses had told how on Sunday three people in a BMW had snatched the previously unidentified girl, aged 16 or 17, as she left a park with a companion who appeared to be involved in the abduction.  

The manner of her disappearance led to a nationwide appeal for witnesses in a bid to find the girl, reportedly wearing a light-coloured skirt at the time of her abduction, from Privas in the southeastern Ardeche region.  

Police received calls from as far afield as Belgium and Switzerland from people who thought they might have seen her.  

An umbrella she left at the scene of the "crime" was sent to a laboratory for analysis in the hope of finding a clue as to her identity or that of her abductors.  

The main witness said that a Volkswagen Passat had cut them off as they tried to give chase.

Another witness said they had seen a BMW acting suspiciously in the area shortly before the kidnapping.  

Police eventually managed to identify the girl and trace her family to the southwestern Haute-Garonne region, hundreds of kilometres away, where they found her unharmed on Thursday, a source close to the enquiry told AFP.  

Her family explained that she had simply fallen victim to the Chechen tradition whereby the groom's family kidnaps the bride-to-be ahead of the wedding.  

"The enquiry is still underway," the local prosecutor insisted, declining to comment on the Chechen connection.

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