Chief Superintendent Dave Stringer, Commander of the South Area Basic Command Unit, told MyLondon: “Our working assumption is that this was well planned and others are helping him avoid detection.”
The three boys were abducted by their dad Imran Safi, 26, from their foster home in Coulsdon Road, Coulsdon on Thursday, August 20.
The brothers Bilal, Mohammed Ebrar, and Mohammed Yaseen – aged six, five and three – were playing in the garden while their foster carer was inside when Safi took them.
She told police she heard footsteps nearby, turned around and saw Safi. The foster carer told police Imran threatened her with a knife and used force to take the children.
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The young brothers have not been seen or heard from since.
More than 100 officers have been working on the case to find them according to Chief Superintendent Stringer.
Police believe Safi has received help in avoiding the police.
Chief Sup Stringer said: “It’s hard to take three children who are all over the media and to keep them hidden.”
A manhunt for Safi was immediately launched by specialist detectives from a team which leads the response to abductions. They have been working 24/7 out of a specialist facility to trace his movements.
Shortly after the children were taken an all ports alert was issued, meaning Safi’s image and details were circulated to all ports and borders. Detectives are working closely with national and international agencies to ensure any movement into foreign countries is identified.
Safi is an Afghani national, and has links to Pakistan. At this stage, it is not known if he has travelled overseas.
Chief Superintendent Stringer has also called on the people of Croydon to help police find Safi and the boys.
He said: “The investigation will lead us into many places but we are confident that local people who know Croydon well, who have connections in Croydon, will know what has happened and have a choice.
“They have a choice whether they let Imran take the children away, take them from a safe environment and potentially put them at risk.
“Or they have a choice speaking us or speaking to Crimestoppers to let us know where the children are and then we can recover those children and make sure they’re properly looked after.
“We are confident that people do know what has happened and are able to help us and we are imploring them to do the right thing and to help us recover these children.”
12 arrests made so far
The number of people arrested in connection to the abduction is now 12 after four men were arrested in Ilford in the early hours of Friday, August 28.
Before that a 25-year-old woman and a 32-year-old man were arrested in Kenley on Friday, August 21.
Three men – two aged 20 and one aged 17 – were arrested in Croydon on Sunday, August 23.
A 25-year-old woman and a 37-year-old man were arrested in Kenley on Tuesday, August 25.
A 33-year-old man was arrested in Croydon on Tuesday, August 25.
Those eight individuals have been bailed to return to a South London police station at a later date.
All arrested are known to the suspect.
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Police are calling on anyone who may have seen a red Nissan Qashqai registration PK13 WFO in the Croydon area, particularly Coulsdon Road, on the afternoon of Thursday August 20 to get in touch.
Officers are also asking anyone who believes they have seen Imran Safi and his children since Thursday, 20 August to contact police immediately through the investigation control room on 07942599374.
Anyone who may see Imran Safi should avoid approaching him and should call 999 immediate
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