Kids missing after outing with estranged father

Swedish police have issued a nationwide alert after two young children and their estranged father went missing on Saturday during a supervised visit to a popular Stockholm tourist attraction.

The two children, 5-year-old Ali and 7-year-old Amina, were visiting the Junibacken museum with their father Osama, the third such supervised visit they’ve had with him since June.

The children’s parents have been embroiled in a bitter custody battle since separating from one another in 2007.

“I just wanted my children back right now,” the children’s mother Anna, who has custody of Ali and Amina, told the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.

The mother’s attorney, Ia Sweger, told the newspaper that her client’s ex-husband had been handed a suspended sentence and fined for threatening the children’s mother and her new boyfriend last year.

The children have been living with their mother since May at an unlisted address.

But on a blog he maintains to highlight his struggle for his children, Osama claims that his ex-wife Anna took his children from him with Sweger’s help and that preparations began back in the summer of 2009.

He claims as well that her daughter was abused at the hands of his ex-wife's boyfriend.

According to information on his blog, the children’s father came to Sweden from Iraq in 1997 and met his now ex-wife in Stockholm in 1999.

He took Swedish citizenship in 2003, but has kept his Iraqi passport, raising fears on the part of his ex-wife, a native of Piteå in northern Sweden, that her ex-husband might attempt to flee with the children to Iraq.

“The whole time I’ve tried to get the authorities to understand that he could the kids and that it’s not enough to have one person as a supervisor,” Anna told DN.

But Osama claims that the notion he might flee to Iraq is a fabrication and that he has been discriminated against because of his background.

“An Iraqi non-practicing Muslim man with a name that people associate with one of our times biggest terrorists doesn’t have the same chances as a Swedish, unreligious woman,” he writes.

The man’s most recent blog post, dated October 7th, is a copy of a complaint letter he sent two days earlier to the Swedish Bar Association (Sveriges Advokatsamfundet) questioning Sweger’s credibility and professional competence.

Speaking with DN, Sweger disputed the version of events presented by her client’s ex husband.

“None of it’s true,” she said.

Swedish police on Saturday issued an arrest warrant for Osama, who is suspected of arbitrary conduct with a child. Authorities in Denmark, Norway, and Finland have been alerted, as has Interpol, according to the Expressen newspaper.

On Sunday, the children's father updated his blog and explained that his kids were safe and that he had no intention of leaving Sweden.

“I had a great time with my kids today; it's the first time in 190 days that the children have slept in my arms,” he wrote.

According to the Stockholm police, Amina was last seen wearing a red Hello Kitty dress and a black jacket, black boots, a red ribbon and a gray stocking hat. Ali had on jeans and a dark blue coat, tennis shoes and blue and orange stocking hat.

Police are asking anyone with information about the case to call the police tipline at 114 14.


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Acupuncture could help your baby stop crying: study

Swedish researchers say acupuncture "appears to reduce crying" in babies suffering from colic.

Acupuncture could help your baby stop crying: study
File photo of a five-week old baby. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

But their work was criticized by colleagues in the medical field, with one calling the study methodology “appalling”.

A duo from Lund University's medicine faculty tested the traditional Chinese needle-piercing remedy in a trial involving nearly 150 babies between two and eight weeks old.

They reported their results in the journal Acupuncture in Medicine, published by the BMJ – formerly known as the British Medical Journal.

Compared to babies who did not undergo the needle treatment, infants who received acupuncture over two weeks exhibited “a significant relative reduction” in crying, the team found.

Such research can be controversial. Acupuncture is invasive, potentially painful, and its benefits are not universally accepted.

Organizations such as the British Medical Acupuncture Society says it is used to treat muscle and postoperative pain, as well as nausea.

But some think acupuncture's effects are that of a placebo, meaning people feel better because they believe it works. The National Institutes of Health, the main UN research agency, says there is “considerable controversy” around its value.

Colic affects as many as one in five families, and is diagnosed when a baby cries for more than three hours per day on more than three days per week.

Why it occurs is not well understood. Indigestion, trapped wind and intolerance to cows' milk have been identified as possible causes.

For the study, colicky babies were divided into three groups of 49. One received “minimal” acupuncture treatment, while another was given up to five 30-second needlings per session. The third group was not given any needle treatment.

“Significantly fewer infants who received acupuncture continued to cry/fuss excessively,” the researchers concluded.

This suggested “acupuncture may be an effective treatment option” for babies crying more than three hours a day.

File photo of an adult person receiving acupuncture. Photo: AP Photo/M. Spencer Green

Criticism of the study was harsh. David Colquhoun, a professor of pharmacology at University College London, described the researchers' analysis of data as “incompetent” and “appalling”.

The study “certainly doesn't show that it [acupuncture] works”, he told the Science Media Centre.

“What parent would think that sticking needles into their baby would stop it crying? The idea sounds bizarre. It is.”

Edzard Ernst from the University of Exeter said the study showed “almost the opposite of what the authors conclude”.

“We know that colicky babies respond even to minimal attention, and this trial confirms that a little additional TLC” – Tender Loving Care – “will generate an effect”.

A total of 388 acupuncture treatments were performed on the babies, the authors reported. On 200 occasions the infant did not cry at all after being pierced, 157 times they cried for up to a minute, and 31 times for more than that.

“The acupuncturists reported bleeding (a single drop of blood) on 15 occasions,” the authors said.

The treatment “may be considered ethically acceptable” if it managed to reduce excessive crying in the longer term, they added.

The report did not indicate what acupuncture points were used.

Article written by AFP's Mariètte Le Roux.