The five-year-old was with her mother in Market Street, Manchester, when the attempted abduction happened.
He approached the girl from behind and picked her up ‘in a bear hug’ before walking away with her, according to witnesses.
They said the girl was screaming and kicking and the mother started shouting at him to let her go.
That’s when fellow shoppers and people passing by reacted to her cries for help, tackling the man to the ground and returning the girl to her mother.
A group of three or four people then pinned the man down until police arrived and arrested a 53-year-old man who is currently in police custody.
According to the Manchester Evening News the man was unknown to the mother.
A witness told the MEN: ‘Everybody was shocked at the scene. I just found out from people that saw it happen.
‘The man tired walking away from the mother and the mother started shouting “My child has gone missing”.
‘Then she saw the man walking away with the child and she screamed.’
A police spokesman said: ‘We were called at 6.50pm to reports that a man had tired to abduct a five year old girl outside a shop on Market Street in the city centre.
‘A 53-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of abduction.’