An escaped python killed two children in their sleep in eastern Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said Monday.

The two young boys, aged five and seven, were sleeping in at a friend's apartment late Sunday in the small town of Campbellton when they were surprised by the snake.

It had escaped from a pet store that specialized in exotic animals located on the ground floor of the building.

"The preliminary investigation has led police to believe that a large exotic snake had escaped its enclosure at the store sometime overnight, and got into the ventilation system, then into the upstairs apartment," police said in a statement.

"It's believed the two boys were strangled by the snake."

The python had been recaptured and was being held by police, the statement added.

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