Police Rescue Kidnapped Girl on Costa del Sol
ESTEPONA, Spain (AP) _ A kidnapper’s lost wallet led police to a hideout Friday where they rescued the 5-year-old daughter of a Lebanese millionaire after a brief shootout. A gang member was wounded, officials said.
″I’m fine, Papa, don’t cry,″ Melodie Nakachian said to her father Raymond when they were reunited, he told reporters.
Melodie, held hostage 11 days, was tired but not hurt.
Police said a kidnapper who fired while holding Melodie in front of him was wounded in the chest, but no officers were injured. The elite unit arrested three men, all identified as professional criminals, in the early morning raid on two apartments in the same building.
Melodie was being held in San Roque, seven miles west of Estepona, the town on the southern Costa del Sol where the family lives.
The little girl’s mother is Korean singer Kimera, 33. Melodie was born in Las Vegas, Nev.
A man and woman, both young, were arrested later Friday in nearby Malaga as part of the action codenamed Operation Baby. Two more suspects who had been under surveillance fled on foot when police tried to seize them.
Rafael Vera, government undersecretary for security, said on state television that French police arrested the man who masterminded the kidnapping and the man who was to have carried the ransom. He said they were picked up in Paris but did not identify them further.
Police said none of the $13 million in ransom demanded by Melodie’s abductors had been paid.
The girl and her captors were located Tuesday after a priest turned over the wallet, Vera told reporters in Madrid earlier Friday. He said a woman found it in Benalmadena, near San Roque.
The wallet contained identity papers and a note in French demanding ransom for the girl, who was pulled from a family car Nov. 9 by four hooded gunmen while on her way to school in Mirabella from her house in Estepona.
Nakachian, 55, called Spanish police ″the best in the world and part of my family forever more″ and added he ″had not paid a penny and hadn’t intended to do so.″
He told reporters gathered outside his house that his daughter ″is fine, has no problems and has not been harmed, at least physically.″
Nakachian said the girl, who was visited by school friends, appeared to be under the effect of sedatives, but spoke freely and was content.
He said the kidnappers cut locks of Melodie’s hair and sent them to him along with two photographs and cassette tapes of the girl demanding the ransom.
The abductors threatened repeatedly to kill her and demanded a ransom of $13 million, which they later reduced to $5 million and then to $4 million, Nakachian told reporters.
He thanked the Spanish people for their support, including those who sent small amounts of money to the family.
Police said the wounded man, identified 40, of Puebla de Lillo. The three were identified by Malaga Civil Gov. Placido Conde.
Vera said all three were known professional criminals previously active in Spain and France.
Shortly after the raid, police in Malaga arrested a man and a woman identified as Jose Luis F., 19, and Carmen D., 22, of Seville, in connection with the kidnapping.
Two suspects under police surveillance in nearby San Pedro de Alcantara jumped from their car and ran into the hills near Marbella when police tried to arrest them.
The girl’s mother, Kimera, 33, whose real name is Kim Hong-Hee, launched her singing career in France and is known for performing with her face painted with colorful designs.
Her last album ″Femme Sauvage″ (″Wild Woman″) was released in France in September.
The kidnapping drew attention to the seamier side of the Costa del Sol, where Middle Eastern arms dealers, Saudi princes, West German nobility and suspected British bank robbers have luxury homes and frequent lavish restaurants and clubs on the ″Golden Mile″ of real estate between Estepona and Marbella.