News24

Kidnapped UK boy flying home

2010-03-18 16:02

Islamabad - Smiling and in high spirits, a 5-year-old British boy boarded a flight home from Pakistan on Thursday after being reunited with his overjoyed father following a 12-day kidnapping ordeal.

Sporting a new hair cut, Sahil Saeed kicked around a football on the lawn of the British high commissioner's residence in Islamabad, joined by a little girl playmate, and was smothered in hugs and kisses from relatives.

Smiling and waving as he was cuddled by his relieved father, Sahil seemed in high spirits and gulped down a drink brought out by a member of the household staff, television footage showed.

The emotional reunion came after his father, Raja Naqqash Saeed, flew back to Pakistan to collect his son and return him to Britain, days after the boy's uncle dropped off a £110 000 ransom in Paris.

Good spirits

"I am completely overjoyed that I have been reunited with my son after such a long ordeal," the father said in a statement released by the high commission.

"Sahil is doing well, is in good spirits and can’t wait to return to the UK to see his Mum, his family and join his friends back at school," he added, thanking British and Pakistani authorities for assisting in his son's return.

Saeed's mother Akila Naqqash, who spoke to her son by telephone from her home in Oldham, northern England, promised him a "big party" on his return.

The ordeal began when Sahil was snatched at gunpoint from his grandmother's house in the town of Jhelum, about 100km south of Islamabad, in the early hours of March 4 at the end of a family holiday.

Pakistani authorities, helped by British officials, launched a hunt for the boy, and 12 days later Sahil was recovered safe and sound in a field not far from Jhelum as the focus of the investigation switched to France and Spain.

British High Commissioner Adam Thomson said he was "thrilled" that Sahil was back with his father.

"This brings to an end a long period of terrible anxiety and uncertainty. I wish them all the best as they rejoin the rest of their family back in the UK," he said in a statement.

Arrests

A Pakistani man and a Romanian woman, who have been charged with murder and are awaiting trial, were among five people arrested by police on Tuesday.

The couple travelled from the north-eastern Spanish town of Constanti, which has a large Pakistani community, to Paris, where they collected the ransom and returned to Spain, where they were arrested.

Another Pakistani man was also arrested in Constanti while French police detained two family members of the man who went to Paris for being accomplices. They had put up the couple at their Paris apartment.

The authorities made the arrests once they were informed that Sahil had been recovered in Pakistan and was safe, said the head of the Spanish police's economic and violent crime unit, commander Serafin Castro.

Police found nearly £104 000 and over €3 000 in the couple's flat in Constanti as well as several mobile telephones, including one used to make calls to the boy's father in Paris, and a new computer.

Castro said the kidnapping began when four men armed with grenades and Kalashnikov rifles stormed the house in Jhelum and tied up all the family members as well as the driver of a taxi booked to go to the airport, before leaving with the boy.