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California girl found safe in field after reported abduction

By Laila Kearney

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A 3-year-old California girl thought to have been abducted by a stranger from just outside her home on Sunday was found alive in a field not far away, authorities said on Tuesday.

A Fresno County sheriff's detective spotted the girl on Monday in the field about a mile from her home, Lieutenant Rick Ko said. There was no immediate word on the girl's condition other than that she was safe.

"She has been reunited with her mom and, at this point, the investigation is continuing," Ko said.

Witnesses said a man on a bicycle rode off with the child, who had been waiting for her mother in a car parked in the driveway of their home in Huron, a small agricultural city in central California, said Huron Police Department dispatcher Marlene Gonzalez.

The girl, who was missing for about 12 hours, has been given back to her mother, Ko said. The mother told authorities she left her daughter in the car while she went back inside to retrieve her wallet, only to find the girl gone when she came back out.

Ko said the sheriff's department is searching for the kidnapper.

Nationally, about 258,000 children under age 18 are abducted every year, mostly by family members, according to a recent report by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

About 100 children are kidnapped and murdered in the country each year, and three quarters of those are killed within three hours of being taken, the center said on its website.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Gunna Dickson)

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