Page last updated at 18:25 GMT, Thursday, 4 March 2010

Family plead for return of boy kidnapped in Pakistan

Sahil Saeed
Sahil Saeed was taken by robbers after a raid on his grandmother's home

The family of a British boy kidnapped at gunpoint in Pakistan have made an emotional plea for his safe return.

Akila Naqqash, from Oldham, Greater Manchester, said she had no idea why her innocent five-year-old son had been targeted and feared for his safety.

Sahil Saeed and his father were at a relative's house in the Punjab city of Jhelum on Wednesday when robbers broke in and abducted the boy, police say.

The attackers are said to have demanded £100,000 ransom for Sahil's return.

Local police have launched a major investigation and say they are confident they will find the little boy soon.

The boy's father, Raja Saeed, had been in Pakistan for two weeks visiting his mother with Sahil.

Mr Saeed said they were just about to leave for the airport at 2300 local time (1800 GMT) on Wednesday when four men - armed with guns and a grenade - approached the house.

Up to 10 family members inside the house were beaten by the intruders during a six-hour ordeal, he said.

Mother of kidnapped boy says she is afraid

The robbers took household items, believed to be jewellery and money, and fled with the boy.

They are demanding a ransom equivalent to £100,000.

They said they would be back in touch at 0700 GMT, but the boy's father said he had not heard from them.

Mr Saeed, who has been based in the UK for about seven years, told BBC News his son, who only speaks English, was a child who "loves everyone".

"I don't have any money at all. They can take me if they want - just let my son come back," he said. "I am nothing without him."

And, speaking at the family's home in Oldham, the child's mother, Akila Naqqash, said there was no chance her family would be able to pay the ransom.

"Sahil is a really quiet child - he's no harm to nobody," she said.

"Why would they want to take my son? What have we done? We've done nothing wrong. This is a normal holiday. Every family takes a holiday.

"How is he coping with strangers? Four grown men. I don't know what they are doing to him."

'Relatively safe'

Jane Sheridan, head teacher of Rushcroft Primary School, which Sahil attends, said everyone was "deeply concerned" about his welfare and they were doing all they could to support his family.

Pakistan's High Commissioner to the UK Wajid Shamsul Hasan described the kidnapping as a "condemnable act" that has caused the Pakistani government concern.

Earlier reports suggested an arrest had been made but Pakistan police insist no prime suspect has been arrested in connection with the kidnap.

Raja Saeed, Sahil's father: "I want to give my son back to my wife"

George Sherriff, a spokesman for the British High Commission in Islamabad, said they were "continually monitoring the situation" and were in touch with Sahil's family.

The BBC's Aleem Maqbool said Punjab police were taking this very seriously and a large team was working on the case.

He said officers thought the kidnapping was unlikely to be the result of a family feud or a personal grudge.

Our correspondent said there were isolated incidents of kidnapping in Pakistan by criminal gangs who wanted to make money, occasionally linked to militant groups.

However, there was nothing to suggest this was the case in this kidnapping, he added.

Our correspondent said Jhelum was not in a tribal area and was a relatively safe part of Pakistan, where many British Pakistanis were from.

He said police were confident they would bring the case to a successful conclusion.



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