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April 10, 2013

Couple accused of kidnapping kids booked into jail

HAVANA (AP) — A Florida couple accused of kidnapping their two young sons and fleeing by boat to Havana were handed over to the United States, and were booked into a Florida jail, officials said today.

Joshua Michael Hakken and his wife Sharyn are being held at the jail early today on a number of charges including kidnapping, child neglect and interference with custody, according to a website for the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

U.S. authorities say Hakken kidnapped his sons, 4-year-old Cole and 2-year-old Chase, from his mother-in-law's house north of Tampa, Florda. The boys' maternal grandparents had been granted permanent custody of the boys last week.

Earlier Tuesday, Cuban Foreign Ministry official Johana Tablada said in a statement that Havana had informed U.S. authorities of the country's decision to turn over the couple and their children.

U.S. diplomats in Havana said in a statement early today that the two children had left Cuba and "are safely on their way home."

"We would like to express our appreciation to the Cuban authorities for their extensive cooperation to resolve this dangerous situation quickly," said the statement released by the U.S. Interests Section in Havana.

Tablada did not say when the handover would occur, but reporters saw Sharyn Hakken leaving the dock of the Hemingway Marina in the back seat of a Cuban government vehicle and workers later said that all four Hakkens had been taken away.

An AP reporter spotted the family earlier Tuesday beside their boat at the marina. A man who resembled photographs of Joshua Michael Hakken yelled out "Stop! Stay back!" as the reporter approached, but there was no outward sign of tension or distress between the family members.

Tablada said Cuba tipped the State Department off to the Hakkens' presence on Sunday and that from that moment "diplomatic contact has been exchanged and a professional and constant communication has been maintained."

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