Kidnappings for ransom are on the rise in Bulgaria, with more than double the number of cases this year, the daily 24 Chasa reported Monday, quoting police. Bulgarian police have investigated 23 kidnappings so far this year, which is already more than twice as many as in all 2008, Angel Antonov, the criminal police division chief, told the newspaper. Most recently, last week, police freed two girls, aged 19, and arrested three kidnappers who had demanded 30,000 leva (23,000 dollars) from their families. The average amount for ransoms paid, 24 Chasa said, is 600,000 euros (890,000 dollars). Organized crime groups try to extort affluent Bulgarians by threatening them "almost on a daily basis" to pay "protection" from kidnapping, the report said. (DPA)

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