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FBI rescues teen

11 August 2013, 08:35

Washington - A harrowing weeklong search for a missing California teenager ended on Saturday when FBI agents rescued the girl and shot and killed her apparent kidnapper at a campsite deep in the Idaho wilderness.

Hannah Anderson, 16, appeared to be uninjured and will be reunited soon with her father at a hospital, authorities said. Her suspected abductor, James Lee DiMaggio, 40, was killed after his campsite was found in Idaho's rugged Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, roughly 65km from the tiny town of Cascade.

Hannah was taken to a hospital where crisis counsellors and health care providers were assisting her. Her father was expected to arrive in Idaho on Sunday to reunite with her.

"We will make sure she gets as much care as possible, physically and emotionally," said Andrea Dearden, a spokesperson from the Ada County Sheriff's Department who has been leading the communication team for the interagency effort in Valley County.

The shooting came after officers participating in a massive manhunt for the pair spotted the campsite from the air and an FBI hostage recovery team trekked to the site near Morehead Lake.

FBI search

"No one really knows where an investigation like this will lead," said Mary Rook, special agent in charge of the FBI's Salt Lake City division. "In this case, our team faced a very challenging situation."

The FBI said it was sending a team to investigate what unfolded before, during and after the shooting. Authorities offered few details Saturday night.

The location wasn't far from what had been the last known sighting of the pair. A horseback rider called authorities on Thursday night to report that on Wednesday he had seen two people who resembled Anderson and DiMaggio with camping gear on a trail near the lake. The rider, whose name wasn't released, didn't realise they were subjects of a massive search until he got home and saw news reports.

The case began when the charred bodies of Hannah Anderson's mother, Christina Anderson, 44, and the teen's 8-year-old brother, Ethan Anderson, were found in DiMaggio's burning house outside San Diego, near the Mexico border.

DiMaggio was close to the family. Christina Anderson's husband, Brett Anderson, has described him as a best friend and said the children thought of him as an uncle.

Authorities have said DiMaggio had an "unusual infatuation" with Hannah, although the father said he never saw any strange behaviour.

Spotted at campsite

An Amber Alert was issued, and tips led investigators to Oregon after DiMaggio and the teen were reportedly spotted there.

But it wasn't until the Idaho horseback rider called in his tip that investigators found a major lead - DiMaggio's car, hidden under brush at a trailhead on the border of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness in central Idaho.

A contingent of about 270 law enforcement officers from the FBI, the Valley and Ada County sheriffs' offices, Idaho State Police, the US Marshals Service, and the Border Patrol, aided by experts from federal land management and wildlife agencies, worked around the clock to figure out the best way to track DiMaggio and the teen in the roadless area.

San Diego County Sheriff William D Gore announced Hannah's rescue and DiMaggio's death from a news conference in California. He said members of his office notified Hannah's father, Brett Anderson, of her rescue.

"He was very relieved and very excited and looking forward to being reunited with his daughter," Gore said.

At a separate news conference in Idaho, Dearden said she didn't know if DiMaggio fired shots at officers but there were no reports of any injuries to authorities involved in the encounter. Cascade residents gathered behind Dearden, Rook and the other officials gathered at the news conference and cheered at the news of Hannah's rescue.

Family is grateful

Rook said FBI victim specialists were working with Hannah and her family to get them the resources they need.

"As grateful as we are that she was recovered safely, we also remember the other victims in this case who lost their lives," Rook said.

FBI policy calls for an investigation whenever an agent fires a weapon, Rook said. A team from Washington, DC, was preparing to investigate the events at the campsite, and until that investigation is complete, Rook said she couldn't share any other details.

- AP

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