Police on Tuesday launched a massive search operation to locate two 11-year-old boys believed to have been taken from their school in Kamares, in Larnaca.
The boys were named as Themistoklis Doglis and Philippos Stamatakis and police were seeking a man suspected of kidnapping them.
The suspect was reportedly seen asking the boys to help him get some books from his car, grabbing them and driving off in a grey or silver saloon car.
Police said he is aged between 50 and 60, 1.70 to 1.75 metres tall and has a bandaged hand. He wore a black T-shirt with a pattern in the front, a waistcoat, and had a beard.
Reports said the incident happened before the first bell of the day. The man pretended to be a new teacher at the school and asked a group of boys for help to carry some books. The two boys, who are friends volunteered. The issue was reported 45 minutes later when the two boys failed to show up.
Police have launched an island-wide operation to locate the boys, using a helicopter and stepping up checks at crossing points with the north, ports and airports.
They urged anyone who may have noticed anyone or anything suspicious in the area of the Kamares primary school in the past days to contact them immediately.
The operation is headed by the chief of police.
“Everything has been mobilised in an effort to locate the children and to get them back safely,” deputy chief of police Kypros Michaelides said.
“You realise this is a very serious and unprecedented affair. We are at a stage where we cannot make any statements.”
Education minister Costas Hambiaouris, as well as the heads of the teacher unions, rushed to the school after hearing about the incident.
The minister said it was a regretful incident and urged calm. He said there was no need for the parents to collect their children from the school.
Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou, in a written statement, pledged his full support for the families, saying that two family members work for the Larnaca general hospital.
Police were also investigating whether a bomb hoax at another Larnaca primary school at 7:50 am on Tuesday was related.
Anyone who has information about the incident should contact Larnaca police by calling 24-804024 or 24-804016, contact their nearest police station or the public hotline 1460.