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Mum Reunited With Sons Held Hostage In Mexico
A California woman has been reunited with her two sons after they were kidnapped and held for ransom in Mexico for more than a year.
Sarani Hernandez left her sons, who are both US citizens, with her mother in the Mexican state of Michoacan for a short time in 2011.
But the 33-year-old decided she wanted her children back with her in Washington state, where she lived at the time.
She met a couple through friends who said they could bring her boys, now aged nine and 11, to the US.
But police and US Justice Department officials said the pair kidnapped the brothers and took them to the city of Ciudad Juarez.
Authorities say Jesus Salinas and Patricia Delatorre, along with Maria Castaneda, extorted thousands of dollars from Ms Hernandez and threatened to kill her if she went to police.
Ms Hernandez, a Mexican national who was applying for US citizenship, not only feared for her life but also was concerned about being deported if she approached authorities.
However, last year she moved from Washington state to the northern California city of Watsonville, where she asked the police for help.
Local police contacted the FBI, which worked with Mexican police to find the boys in December.
After working with social services in Mexico, the family was eventually reunited, ending the 18-month-long ordeal.
"They just hugged each other for several minutes. Even the boys were crying," Watsonville police officer Elizabeth Sousa told the Santa Cruz Sentinel newspaper.
"It was an incredible experience."
Salinas and Delatorre were arrested in January in Mount Vernon, Washington, and face federal kidnapping charges in San Jose.
Castaneda remains at large. Police believe she is still in Mexico.