Page last updated at 13:08 GMT, Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Kidnapped Oldham boy Sahil Saeed found safe in Pakistan

Akila Naqqash
Akila Naqqash has spoken to her son on the telephone, police said

The family of a five-year-old British boy who was kidnapped while in Pakistan say they are "ecstatic" after he was found safe and well.

Sahil Saeed, from Oldham, had been snatched from his grandmother's house in Jhelum by armed robbers on 3 March.

Greater Manchester Police said he was left near a school at 0410 GMT on Tuesday, before wandering into a field where he was found by locals.

The family in Oldham said they were "over the moon" at his release.

"The whole family is ecstatic. They are currently taking in the news and want to celebrate as a family," a spokesman said.

Sahil's mother, Akila Naqqash, said her son had seemed "normal" when she had spoken to him on the telephone, and that she was "gobsmacked" at his reaction to his ordeal.

She said: "Obviously [he had] been held for 13 days, and the way he spoke to me like nothing happened - it's normal, the way he spoke and everything. He's going on and on and on about his toys and his sisters and everything - a normal little boy."

Along with his family, we eagerly await his return to Oldham, and back to Rushcroft where he has been missed by his friends and teachers
Jane Sheridan, head teacher

She also revealed that she had not left her house during the entire time that her son had been missing.

"Obviously you think, who these people are, will he be treated well, how's he coping, things like that.

"But now it's said he's unharmed, been looked after very well, which is really, really good, the way I wanted it as well.

"That's really reassured me, I'm really glad about that report. I'm just waiting for my little boy to come back - that's all I want now."

Police said that Sahil had also spoken by phone to his father.

Sahil was found 20 miles away from Jhelum, near a village school in the town of Dinga in the Gujrat district, local police said.

Assistant Chief Constable Dave Thompson of Greater Manchester Police said members of Sahil's family were due to fly to Pakistan as soon as possible to bring him back to the UK.

He said: "At this time, I believe he is well, considering the terrible ordeal that he will have been through."

Sahil is now with family in Pakistan and with Pakistani police, ACC Thompson added. He also said that while police did not expect to make imminent arrests in the UK, there could be arrests in other parts of Europe.

He said "things were moving very quickly" in relation to the investigation and that he was unable to comment on whether a ransom had been paid, because of the ongoing criminal investigation.

"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," he said.

The boy had been visiting relatives with his father, Raja Saeed, who returned to the UK last week, against the wishes of Pakistan's police.

Violent robbery

The British High Commissioner in Islamabad, Adam Thompson, said Sahil's release was "fantastic news".

"It brings to an end the traumatic ordeal faced by Sahil Saeed's family," he said.

"I would like to praise the high level of co-operation between the UK and Pakistani authorities and in particular I would like to thank the Jhelum police for their role in bringing about the safe return of Sahil."

The Foreign Office said it had no further details of the release at present.

Sahil was taken when robbers broke into his grandmother's house. Up to 10 family members inside the house were said to have been beaten by the intruders during a six-hour ordeal.

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

The raiders had apparently demanded a £100,000 ransom for the boy's return, but his family had said there was "no way" they could afford any such payment.

Sahil Saeed's mother, Akila Naqqash: "It was my little boy"

The BBC's Aleem Maqbool said kidnapping was not rare in Pakistan, and even when ransoms were handed over, such cases did not always end happily.

The policy of the Foreign Office is that it does not pay ransoms and it advises others not to do so.

The law minister of Punjab province, Rana Sanaullah, was asked on ARY TV on Tuesday whether Sahil's father had paid a ransom to secure his child's release.

He said the money had been paid "not in Britain, but in another country".

Mother's pleas

Jane Sheridan, head teacher at Rushcroft Primary School, said: "We are delighted to hear that Sahil has been released safe and well.

"Along with his family, we eagerly await his return to Oldham, and back to Rushcroft where he has been missed by his friends and teachers."

Last week, relatives of the boy spoke of their anguish after false reports that he had been found and handed over to his father.

His uncle, Raja Khalid Bashir, said at the time that it was "like losing him a second time".

In Oldham, Sahil's mother had appealed to the kidnappers for the safe return of her son, saying: "I just want my son back. All is forgiven, I will forgive you."

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

Four police officers have been suspended for not initially responding to the family's emergency call.

But Aleem Maqbool said it is now clear that the police do not have any suspects in custody.



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FROM OTHER NEWS SITES
Sky News Family Wait For Return Of Kidnap Boy Sahil - 3 hrs ago
TelegraphPakistani police investigate kidnapped boy's father - 6 hrs ago
Times Online Ransom claim after kidnap boy is freed - 8 hrs ago
The Independent Kidnap boy's family deny paying ransom - 8 hrs ago
Build.co.uk Boy Released In Pakistan - 22 hrs ago
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