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National City

Two 7-year-old girls were abducted from a residential street in National City Saturday afternoon by a man who repeatedly molested both of them before releasing them, police said.

The assailant, described as a man in his early 20s, may have followed the children in his car for a considerable distance before ordering them into the vehicle, taking them to several unknown locations and sexually assaulting each of them at least three times, Detective Tim Drum said.

“In the five years I’ve done this, this is one of the worst cases I’ve seen,” Drum said, adding that “a daytime kidnap-molest is very rare because it offers a very great opportunity to be caught.”

Drum said that he doubts the incident is connected with the June 19 slaying of 9-year-old Laura Arroyo, who was abducted from her San Ysidro home when she answered a knock at the front door, and was later found dead on the sidewalk of a Chula Vista industrial complex.

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Police said they have no witnesses to Saturday’s abduction, despite the time required by the assailant to follow the girls, attempt to coax them into his car and then finally order them into the vehicle. Police said that the kidnaping occurred about 2 p.m. in a residential and commercial neighborhood, near a park.

He described the two unrelated children as “traumatized” and refused to say whether they had been raped.

According to a news release issued by National City police, the assailant apparently was waiting in his vehicle in the parking lot of a Chuck E Cheese’s restaurant in the 1100 block of Highland Avenue when the two girls left after playing video games.

He followed them as they crossed Highland to Kimball Way, and walked south on D Avenue on their way home. He stopped his car and began talking in a friendly way to the children, offering them a ride home.

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The girls refused the offer and continued walking until the assailant ordered them into the car.

Drum said the girls were taken to “several locations” and each girl was assaulted at least three times. The attacker returned them to East 8th Street and B Avenue about an hour later, where they went to a nearby business and asked someone to call the police.

Police described the attacker as a Latino male between the ages of 21 and 26, about 5 feet 8 with a “normal” build and short hair cut in a flat-top style. He was driving a 1990 or 1991 green-blue or teal Chevrolet Camaro-style car.

Police have reported the incident throughout Southern California to determine if there have been any similar incidents recently and are seeking information from anyone who may have seen the suspect or his vehicle, Drum said.

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