Four new arrests have been made after a father abducted his three young sons at knifepoint from their south London foster home.
An urgent manhunt is under way for Imran Safi, 26, who is said to have snatched his sons Bilal, six, Mohammed Ebrar, five, and three-year-old Mohammed Yaseen Safi, last Thursday.
Safi is suspected of threatening the brothers’ foster carer with a knife and using force to take the youngsters, who have not been seen since.
Four men aged between 21 and 41 were arrested at a property in Ilford, east London, on Friday morning on suspicion of involvement in the abduction, Scotland Yard said.
They are believed to be known to the suspect and have been taken to a south London police station for questioning.
Eight people – relatives and friends of Safi – have already been arrested on suspicion of involvement in the abduction and were bailed to a later date.
It is understood that the boys were shortly due to be formally adopted by a new family, which detectives believe could be a motive for the abduction.
The three boys were playing in the garden of Coulsdon House in Croydon while their foster carer was inside at around 6pm on August 20.
The foster mother heard footsteps and became aware of Safi, who she said was armed with a knife and threatened her before forcibly taking the boys and driving off.
More than 100 officers are searching for the children and it is not yet known if their father, who is an Afghan national and has links to Pakistan, has travelled overseas.
Chief Superintendent Dave Stringer, of the Metropolitan Police, said: “Whilst this development has brought us one step closer to finding Imran and the three children, we still need more information from the public to help us locate them.
“Since we appealed for help yesterday afternoon, we have received just over 30 calls from members of the public to our control room and via Crimestoppers. These calls are now being followed up by my officers who continue to work all hours of the day to bring these children home safely.
“I would really urge anyone from the Croydon, and now Ilford, area to think long and hard about if they saw these children, or their father, the evening of Thursday, 20 August and possibly the morning of Friday, 21 August.”
“We are continuing to appeal for anyone who may have seen a red Nissan Qashqai registration PK13 WFO in the Croydon area, particularly Coulsdon Road, on the afternoon of Thursday, 20 August to get in touch.”
Anyone who believes they have seen Imran Safi and his children since August 20 are is asked to contact police through the investigation control room on 07942599374.