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Federal agents seize Elian in predawn raid
Boy to be reunited with his father in Maryland
MIAMI (CNN) -- U.S. agents in riot gear and carrying rifles seized Elian Gonzalez from the home of his Miami relatives before dawn Saturday and whisked the crying 6-year-old away for a reunion with his father.
U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno said in a news conference after the seizure that the government tried every way it could to get the Miami family to surrender the boy before taking action.
A female federal agent carried the boy out of the house wrapped in a blanket and placed him in a white van.
Reno made the decision to stage the raid just 30 minutes before authorities went in, government sources said.
"The child has been safely removed from the house," a Justice Department official said in a statement. "He is currently on his way to be reunited with his father."
A government source told CNN that Elian was being flown to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland to be reunited with his father. His father was en route to the base to meet his son.
An administration official said White House Chief of Staff John Podesta was kept informed about the Justice Department operation and that President Clinton was awakened and told when Elian had been removed from the home.
Female agent carried Elian from the house
Dozens of agents surrounded the home of Elian's great-uncle, Lazaro Gonzalez, shortly after 5 a.m. Some of the agents wore jackets that said INS on the back and others said Border Patrol.
CNN Justice Correspondent Pierre Thomas reported that a senior Justice Department official told him that eight agents entered the home. They were backed up by about 130 other agents including federal marshals.
The agents knocked three times and when there was no response they kicked in the door of the home.
The source said the female agent who carried Elian from the home told him she knew he must be frightened but that this would be over soon and he would feel much better. The agent told Elian she was taking him to his father and wrapped him in a blanket.
Photos taken by an Associated Press photographer inside the home during the raid showed a helmeted agent holding a rifle and reaching for Elian, who was being held by an adult.
A short time later, a woman ran from the home with Elian in her arms and put him in the van that drove away.
Video taken inside the home after Elian was removed showed his great-uncle Lazaro Gonzalez and his cousin Marisleysis, crying and being comforted by others inside the home.
Crowd grows quickly
"Assassins," yelled some of the approximately 100 protesters, some of whom climbed over the barricades in an attempt to stop the agents.
"The world is watching!" yelled Delfin Gonzalez, the brother of Lazaro Gonzalez.
"They were animals," said Jess Garcia, a bystander. "They gassed women and children to take a defenseless child out of here. We were assaulted with no provocation."
Within an hour of the raid, the crowd in Little Havana quickly swelled. Some of the crowd held hands and prayed.
Elian found by fishermen
Elian was rescued by two fishermen while clinging to an inner tube off the Florida coast on November 25. He and two others survived, but his mother and 10 others drowned when their boat sank while trying to reach the United States from Cuba.
The boy's Miami relatives have cared for him ever since. They insist Elian will be better off living with them and argue that the boy would be psychologically harmed and face persecution if he is returned to communist-ruled Cuba.
Reno ponders force, other options, to end Elian standoff
U.S. Attorney General
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