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LANCASTER, Calif. (AP) _ A man kidnapped two teenage girls at gunpoint early Thursday from a remote lovers' lane, sparking an intense hunt throughout the Southwest.

The man, described as being in his mid-30s to early 40s, was considered armed and dangerous, authorities said.

``It's a life-and-death situation,'' Los Angeles County sheriff's Capt. Tom Pigott said.

The man had a semiautomatic handgun when he approached Tamera Brooks, 16, and Jaqueline Marris, 17, as they sat in separate cars with male friends shortly after 1 a.m., authorities said.

He blindfolded 18-year-old Joshua Brown, bound him with duct tape and tied him to a post before fleeing with the girls in one of the teens' vehicles, a 1980 Ford Bronco.

``He told me he was going to kill me but he didn't want to,'' Brown told KNBC-TV. ``He just kept telling her to stay down, keep her head down, don't look at him.''

The victims apparently did not know each other, authorities said. Neither boy was injured.

The man left behind a sedan that was reported stolen in a July 18 carjacking in Las Vegas, investigators said. The man poured gasoline over the car, apparently trying to torch it, but was unsuccessful, Pigott said.

The search spread quickly beyond Lancaster, about 60 miles northeast of Los Angeles.

``He's been mobile for several hours now, so we don't want to concentrate just here in the Antelope Valley,'' said FBI special agent Randy Aden, who supervises a bureau task force that investigates crimes against children. ``We're going to open up and throw a net over the whole Southwest.''

A friend of Brooks said she was going to be a junior at Antelope Valley High School this fall and had high grades.

``She's so smart, she's strong. She had everything going for her. She could go anywhere she wanted,'' said Desiree Lemos, 16. ``She's just the sweetest person. Everybody she met, they became friends.''

Marris, a cheerleader and dancer, was described by a friend and classmate at Highland High School in Palmdale as a ``fighter.''

``She doesn't let anyone mess with her,'' said Robin Zimmer, 17. ``I just hope she comes back safe. She's such a good person. She doesn't deserve this.''