Washington - Charges are expected soon against three brothers linked to the years-long imprisonment of three women in the US city of Cleveland, Ohio, police said Tuesday.

“We're going to charge those suspects. We believe we have the people responsible,” said deputy police chief Ed Tomba.

The three women - Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight - were discovered by police after Berry on Monday broke out of the house where they had been detained, with the help of a neighbour. Two of them were held for more than a decade.

They were found along with a 6-year-old girl, who police confirmed as Berry's daughter. Police would not comment on the child's father.

Police chief Michael McGrath said it would be days until all the facts emerged about how the women had been kidnapped and how they had been held.

“There is 10 years of logistical information that have to be sorted through,” he said.

Berry, now 27, had been missing since April 2003, when she was 16; DeJesus, now 23, since 2004, when she was 14; and Knight, now 32, since 2002, when she was 20.

The disappearances of Berry and DeJesus had been the focal point of years of media coverage and investigations. Police said they were still regularly getting tips about the disappearances while communities held regular vigils for them.

“Everything was done. We dug up backyards. Our goal was to get them back safely,” said Tomba.

Details about Knight were only emerging Tuesday. Cleveland safety director Marty Flask said she disappeared in August 2002 and that a missing person's notice was out for her since the day after she vanished.

The men arrested are Ariel Castro, 52, a bus driver and owner of the house where the women were found, along with his two brothers, Pedro and Oneil.

Tomba did not say what the charges would be.

He said he expected most details would emerge from interviews with the women.

Officials said that because the investigation was ongoing they were unable to say yet how the women might have been taken to the house and how they had been kept from exiting it for years, during which neighbours said they had never suspected that anyone were being held there against their will.

Officials said they had never had reason to focus on the house and noted there had been no complaints about housing violations or fire reports there. They noted two police visits to the house, but neither was linked to the missing women.

The authorities refused to speculate on questions from reporters on whether the women had been used as sex slaves or how they had been kept from leaving.

The women got free late Monday after Berry drew the attention of a neighbour, who broke down the door of the house. When police responded two minutes after an emergency call, the other two women and the child exited the house.

Tomba said the women seemed to be in good physical condition.

For their families, “prayers have finally been answered. The nightmare is over,” FBI special agent in charge Steven Anthony said. “... The healing can now begin.”

He said that FBI victim and witness specialists, who respond to help traumatized people, would be in Cleveland to help the three women in interviews with investigators. - Sapa-dpa