Joy for family as Pakistan kidnap boy Sahil Saeed freed

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The mother of a five-year-old British boy kidnapped by gunmen in Pakistan spoke of her joy today after he was released unharmed.

Sahil Saeed, who was snatched from a house in the Punjab region on March 4, was found wandering alone in a field this morning.

His mother Akila Naqqash, speaking from the family home in Oldham, Greater Manchester, described the moment she found out he had been released.

"It was amazing. At first I thought it was not true."

She added: "I talked to him on the phone, my little boy. It reassured me that he is safe and he's been released from the kidnappers. That's enough for me."

She said she was "gobsmacked" to hear her son's voice again on the phone.

Beaming broadly, Sahil's mother said her son seemed unharmed by his ordeal and had been asking about his sisters and other family members during a brief phone chat.

She said: "He was going on and on and on about his toys - just a normal little boy."

Sahil is understood to still be in Pakistan and his return is being organised by the British High Commission in Islamabad.

It is thought family members will fly out to be reunited with him in Pakistan before he is flown back to the UK.

Greater Manchester Police assistant chief constable Dave Thompson said the boy was released at 4.10am British time in Kharian City, Punjab.

He said: "The release was made as a result of a phone call made to his family.

"He was released nearby to a school, alone, wandered into a local field and was found by some local residents who looked after him until such time his family found him with the police."

He also praised the "support and co-operation" given by Sahil's mother and father.

Sahil was on holiday with his father, Raja Naqqash Saeed, in Pakistan when he was snatched. Raiders struck as the pair were preparing to take a taxi to the airport for their flight home to the UK.

The kidnappers apparently demanded a £100,000 ransom for the boy's return and originally set a deadline of noon the next day for the money to be delivered.

His family promptly said there was "no way" they could afford any such payment.

After Sahil was taken, several men - including a taxi driver - were arrested.

His family suffered frustrations during the investigation after Pakistani authorities said on several occasions that they were close to securing the boy's release.

Sahil's mother begged for the safe return of her son, telling the kidnappers at one point: "I just want my son back. All is forgiven, I will forgive you."

His father returned to the UK at the start of last week, despite reports that police in Pakistan wanted him to stay in the country as a witness.

Police said they were determined that Sahil's kidnappers would be brought to justice.

Mr Thompson said: "This remains a fast-moving international inquiry. It is led in Pakistan but over the last 12 days there has been considerable support delivered by the Greater Manchester Police to support the safe return of this young boy.

"This still remains a very active criminal investigation and Greater Manchester Police and the Pakistani authorities are still determined to bring people to justice and that will be a high priority in the coming hours, days and weeks."

British High Commissioner in Pakistan Adam Thomson said Sahil was "in good spirits", although tired.

Mr Thomson said: "I am simply delighted that Sahil has been released safe and sound.

"I know that his family must be overjoyed following almost two weeks of terrible anxiety and uncertainty.

"The top priority for the High Commission now is to ensure he is reunited with his parents as soon as possible and to help with his return to the UK.

"Sahil is in the care of the Pakistani authorities and his uncle. The British Consul is also with him and is continuing to provide all the help she can.

"Although a little tired, Sahil has been in good spirits. He has also spoken to his mum and dad on the telephone this morning.

"I would like to commend the close co-operation between the UK and Pakistani authorities, and warmly thank the Jhelum police for their role in securing Sahil's safe return.

"As the Greater Manchester Police have made clear, there remains an active police investigation and it would therefore be inappropriate to comment on ongoing operational issues."