Page last updated at 17:05 GMT, Friday, 5 March 2010

Family of boy taken in Pakistan deny 'inside job' claim

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

The family of a five-year-old British boy snatched by armed robbers in Pakistan have denied the kidnap was an "inside job".

Sahil Saeed's family, from Oldham, spoke out after a senior diplomat hinted at the possibility but he later clarified he had not meant a relative.

Local police say they believe the kidnappers had been tipped off by someone close to the family.

It is understood several men, including a taxi driver, have been arrested.

Sahil was visiting relatives in Pakistan with his father.

He was taken from his grandmother's home in the Punjab city of Jhelum on Wednesday, as he prepared to take a taxi to the airport for his return flight to the UK.

The attackers are said to have demanded a £100,000 ransom for his return.

'Close family'

Aslam Tareen, from the regional police force in Punjab, said the attackers had probably been tipped off about Sahil's itinerary.

They can take me if they want - just let my son come back. I am nothing without him
Raja Saeed

"They are local people from here, most probably, and they have connections of knowing that he's leaving, so nobody knew about his programme except this taxi driver himself and his family," he said.

Earlier on Friday, Pakistan's High Commissioner to the UK Wajid Shamsul Hasan told GMTV that detectives were looking at the possibility of "a sort of inside job".

But speaking later, he clarified exactly what he had meant.

"Some people, some neighbours, who could have been jealous of them maybe having made some money abroad, who could have acted in collaboration with the gangsters or criminals in the area and would have tipped them off," he told the BBC.

Mother's anguish over boy's kidnap

He added that the investigation was ongoing and a breakthrough was expected soon.

The boy's mother, Akila Naqqash, and aunt, Amrana Iftikhar, denied any family involvement.

Ms Iftikhar said: "We are such a close family, no family member could do this to a child, not our family."

Ms Naqqash told the BBC the family were getting no information from British officials.

"I want the government to do something because they have not responded to us, anything - what stage they're at, how they're going to help," she said.

The family felt powerless and her son would be scared, she added.

'No money'

Detectives in Pakistan have said they are confident Sahil will be returned to his family.

Pakistani police investigator Raja Tahir Bashir said: "God willing, we will recover the boy very soon," he said.

"We are doing whatever is possible."

Islamabad correspondent Aleem Maqbool said police sources had revealed that officers traced the kidnappers through calls made on mobile phones stolen from Sahil's family.

Mobile phone footage of Sahil playing football in the UK

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) 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.

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

They said they would be back in touch, 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 he was ready to swap places with his only son.

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

This is the number one priority for the Foreign Office in Pakistan
Phil Woolas
Family's MP

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

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 said, adding that Jhelum is a relatively safe part of Pakistan, where many British Pakistanis are from.

The family's MP, Immigration Minister Phil Woolas, said the family was being supported by the authorities in both the UK and Pakistan.

"This is the number one priority for the Foreign Office in Pakistan. But the focus is still on the police operation."

He added that the government would review its travel advice for this area of Pakistan once the situation was resolved.

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