Saman Abbas: Uncle of teen who refused arranged marriage arrested

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Image source, Carabinieri
Image caption, Three of the suspects, holding spades, were captured on video in late April

The uncle of an Italian-Pakistani woman who disappeared after refusing an arranged marriage has been arrested on suspicion of murder.

Saman Abbas's uncle, Danish Hasnain, was detained under a European arrest warrant in France on Wednesday.

The Pakistani man is one of five relatives being investigated on suspicion of murder.

Ms Abbas, 18, was last seen in late April near her family's home in northern Italy.

Police say her family had wanted her to travel to Pakistan for an arranged marriage, which she refused last year.

She had reportedly been living under the protection of social services but returned to the family home in Novellara, near Parma, in late April.

Prosecutors said she was tricked into returning home.

They believe she was killed, but the authorities are yet to find her body. They have been searching farmland in Novellara since May.

Italian police investigators in Reggio Emilia used social media to track down the arrested uncle, Mr Hasnain, in the French capital Paris.

Prosecutor Isabella Chiesi said Mr Hasnain's arrest was "fundamental" to the case, namely to establish the whereabouts of Ms Abbas's body.

Mr Hasnain "appears to be the mastermind", the prosecutor said without giving further details, according to Italy's Ansa news agency.

Earlier, police released CCTV footage from 29 April which appeared to show three suspects walking with spades, a crowbar and a blue bag.

Investigators say Ms Abbas's parents and one of her cousins fled from Italy after she went missing.

A few days after her disappearance, her parents were captured on CCTV at a Milan airport hurrying to catch a flight to Pakistan.

But on Thursday, the Italian government said it had asked Pakistan to extradite them. Justice Minister Marta Cartabia signed and sent the extradition requests.

Another cousin was also arrested in connection with the case earlier this year and is in jail in Italy.

The Italian Union of Islamic Communities (UCOII) has expressed shock at the case and issued a fatwa (religious ruling) rejecting forced marriages.

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