Kidnap boy's family angry at 'inside job' claim

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The Independent Online

The family of a five-year-old British boy snatched by gun-wielding raiders in Pakistan angrily insisted today the kidnap was no "inside job".

Several men - including a taxi driver - have been arrested in connection with the abduction of Sahil Saeed, who was taken yesterday from his grandmother's house in the Punjab region.

The boy's mother, Akila Naqqash, and aunt, Amrana Iftikhar, spoke out after Wajid Shamsul Hasan, the Pakistani High Commissioner in the UK, said there was "a possibility of someone in the family having some sort of knowledge".

Breaking down in tears at the family home in Oldham, Greater Manchester, Ms Iftikhar said: "We are such a close family, no family member could do this to a child, not our family."

Ms Naqqash spoke of the growing frustration for relatives as they wait for news. She said: "We are getting no answers. How are they treating him? Is he eating? He is just a little boy, what has he done wrong?"

The armed raiders, wielding guns and grenades, apparently subjected the family in Pakistan to a six-hour ordeal after breaking into the house in Jhelum. The attackers are said to have demanded a £100,000 ransom for the boy's return.

Mr Hasan told GMTV that detectives were looking at the possibility of whether the kidnap was "a sort of inside job".

But speaking later on ITV News he appeared to distance himself from the comments, saying: "I did not say that it is an inside job done by the family, I said somebody nearby must have informed those criminals and they must be in league with them.

"For example we are suspecting the driver who brought them home or anybody relating to him could have done it.

"Although there have been leads, there have been arrests and the taxi driver has been arrested and he is being questioned and there are other leads also which tend to certain telephone calls. I can't tell you about the whereabouts of those telephone calls for the safety of the child or I can't name the persons who have been arrested."

Ms Naqqash begged the British Government for their help as she renewed her bid to get her little boy back.

She added: "I need the help of the Government in the UK, they have not responded to us about what stage they are at and how they are going to help us. I want them to do something about it.

"He must be scared now. I am pleading, please just help us, please, please."

Ms Naqqash, 31, previously said there was "no way" her family could afford the six-figure ransom on his head.

His great-uncle, Matlub Ahmed, 55, who also ruled out any family involvement, said they had not heard from the kidnappers but were in regular contact with his nephew, Raja Naqqash Saeed, Sahil's father.

He added: "We are all praying to bring that kid back.

"His mother has been crying all night.

"So far we have got no news at all, but one telephone call can change everything."

Phil Woolas, the Immigration Minister and MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, said police were following "strong leads".

He told BBC Breakfast: "Obviously the time is going by and police have made arrests.

"This is the number one priority for the Foreign Office in Pakistan but the focus is still on the police operation. They have made some arrests and there have been strong leads but of course it's very focused and intense investigation there.

"This little boy is getting the full support of the British Government and authorities."

The British High Commission was unable to provide details of the fresh arrests in Pakistan this morning.

When asked if police were investigating whether it was an "inside job", a spokesman said: "Police are investigating all areas."

Police in Pakistan confirmed their first arrest last night amid reports the country's authorities were confident Sahil could be freed within 24 hours.

Police investigator Raja Tahir Bashir said: "God willing, we will recover the boy very soon. We are doing whatever is possible."

Mr Bashir added that a number of suspects were being questioned.

His father, Raja Naqqash Saeed, who was described by the family as "hysterical" after the ordeal, said the kidnappers had originally put a deadline of noon yesterday on the ransom for Sahil's safe return.

He said robbers armed with guns and hand grenades had broken into the house in Jhelum, where he and his son were staying with the youngster's grandmother.

Ms Naqqash, who also has two daughters, Anisha, four, and Hafsah, 21 months, said she had heard nothing from the kidnappers.