The case of little Rifki, a four-year-old from the east African island of Comoros, was splashed across French newspapers all weekend after he went missing from a central square in Rennes, western France.
Police shared the boy's picture through the “Plan Alerte Enlevement” abduction alert procedure on Sunday morning after his mother reported him missing on Saturday at around 2pm.
Some 24 hours later, a woman on a high-speed TGV train near Bordeaux in south-western France was able to recognize the boy, who was sitting directly across from her with a man, and alerted police.
When the train stopped at the next station, Libourne, the doors were locked to prevent escape and police rescued the boy and arrested the man with him.
A prosecutor said that the boy was “safe and sound”, adding that his kidnapper had “no relationship” to him. The suspect, named Ahmed, is understood to have been known to the family.
The happy ending was hailed in the French media on Sunday afternoon, and members of the Comoros community in Rennes gathered to celebrate Rifki's return.
Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve even chimed in on Twitter to share his relief for “little Rifki”, congratulating the police involved.
Soulagement d'avoir retrouvé sain et sauf le petit Rifki, félicitations aux gendarmes qui ont interpellé son ravisseur à Libourne
— Bernard Cazeneuve (@BCazeneuve) August 16, 2015
The abduction alert is rarely used in France, but is highly effective. It has been launched 16 times since it was introduced in 2006, with all missing parties found safe afterwards. The alert is spread on TV, radio, and public transport and is only put in place when a child's life is deemed to be in danger.