MOSCOW, June 1 (JTA) — A 12-year-old boy who is thought to be the last Israeli citizen held hostage by a Chechen gang was set free.
Following the intervention of a special police squad and a negotiator familiar with the tactics of Chechen abductors, Adi Sharon was freed Thursday in the city of Penza, some 500 miles east of Moscow.
Adi was abducted last August in Moscow, where his father, Yossef Sharon, an Israeli businessman, had brought him for the summer.
The family emigrated to Israel from the former Soviet republic of Georgia 20 years ago. Adi lost his mother when he was 4, and he frequently accompanied his father on business trips.
The abductors, a group that included both Russians and Chechens, had originally demanded a ransom of $5 million, then cut the sum to $1 million.
The father paid a first installment of $50,000 before contacts with the gang ceased, in part because of a Russian military advance in Chechnya.
After the payments stopped, the gangsters cut off two of the boy’s fingers and mailed them to his father.
At that point, the Israeli Embassy put Sharon in contact with a special Russian police team and with Vyacheslav Izmailov, a retired Russian major who has arranged the release of dozens of hostages held in Chechnya, including several Israeli citizens.
Subsequent phone negotiations with the gang led the police to several different places in Chechnya and in the neighboring republic of Ingushetiya.
Their efforts paid off Thursday, when Adi was traced to Penza, where police detained five members of the gangs and freed the youth.
Sharon is expected to return to Israel with his son in the coming days.