“Our absolute priority at this moment in time is the welfare of these three children," Commander Jon Savell stated during a press conference. "They have been taken from a place of safety and we are growing increasingly concerned about their wellbeing, particularly as we remain in the midst of a global health crisis.”
Savell stated that they "do not believe at this time there is any immediate risk to their physical safety," but expressed concerns over their basic needs being met and potential long-term ramifications of this event.
Officers reported that at approximately 6 pm on August 20th 26-year-old Imran Safi showed up at the residence where his three sons were in foster care and soon to be formally adopted. He is said to have threatened the foster mother with a knife leaving her with minor injuries and "understandably distressed."
Bilial, 6, Mohammed Ebrar, 5, and Mohammed Yaseen, 3, were placed into the back of a red Nissan Qashqai car with the license plate PK13 WFO and have not been seen since. The Telegraph reports that investigators have since recovered the vehicle itself, but are still appealing to the public for anyone with information about the movements of the vehicle to contact them.
Investigators stated that it would be very difficult to keep three boys hidden for a week and state that there is a "strong possibility" that despite the issuance of an all-ports alert shortly after the abductions, the children may have been taken abroad. They have not, however, ruled out the possibility that they could be secreted away somewhere in the London area.
As a part of their investigation, police arrested eight people, two women and six men between the ages of 17 and 37 on suspicion of involvement in the abduction. All of the individuals are reported to either be family or friends of Safi.
"We think there are people connected with the family or local in the community who will know what has happened, will know why it has happened and I would very strongly appeal to them to do the right thing," Chief Superintendent Dave Stringer stated.
Officers have not yet revealed the reason that the three sons were in foster care, but did state that they were in contact with the boys' biological mother, and that "hundreds" of officers were working "around the clock" to locate the children.
Anyone with information is asked to contact police immediately through the investigation control room on 07942599374 – a number that police say would be answered round the clock.
Any members of the public who sees Safi are advised to avoid approaching him but call police immediately on 999 quoting the crime reference number 6143/20AUG20.