A five-year-old British boy has been kidnapped by armed robbers in Pakistan, local police have said. Sahil Saeed, from Oldham, Greater Manchester, was abducted in Jhelum, where his family were on holiday.
Robbers broke into where they were staying, in Punjab province, on Wednesday night and have demanded a ransom of about $150,000 Canadian. The British High Commission is in touch with his family and local authorities have launched an investigation. George Sherriff, a spokesman for the commission in Islamabad, said they were “continually monitoring the situation.” (BBC)
The spokesman said the family had been due to fly back to Britain on Thursday following a two-week visit. The boy’s Pakistani father, Raja Naqqah Saeed, had been visiting his mother in Pakistan with Sahil. They were about to leave for the airport to return to the UK at 2300 local time 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 in a six-hour ordeal during the night. “The kidnappers held the family at gunpoint overnight and left with household possessions as well as taking the boy with them,” said George Sherriff, the press attache at the British High Commission in Islamabad. (The Globe & Mail)
The robbers eventually fled with the boy, demanding a ransom. They also took household items, believed to be jewelry and money. The intruders said they would be back in touch at 1200 local time, although 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 that 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.” (BBC)
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 for the ransom.
Fearing for the safety of her “bubbly” child, the boy’s mother said she had no idea why her son had been targeted. She said: “Sahil is a really quiet child – he’s no harm to nobody. 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. I just want him back.” (BBC)
Jane Sheridan, head teacher of Rushcroft Primary School, which Sahil attends, says everyone was “deeply concerned” about his welfare and they were doing all they could to support his family.
The BBCs Aleem Maqbool says Punjab police are taking this very seriously and a large team is working on the case. He says the chief of police is now involved and officers think the kindapping is unlikely to be the result of a family feud or a personal grudge. The BBC’s correspondent says there are isolated incidents of kidnapping in Pakistan by criminal gangs who want to make money, occasionally linked to militant groups. However, he says there is nothing to suggest this is the case in this kidnapping. The BBC’s correspondent says Jhelum is not in a tribal area and is a relatively safe part of Pakistan, where many British Pakistanis are from. He says police are confident they will bring the case to a successful conclusion
Criminals are suspected in most kidnappings, but the Taliban and other militant groups are thought to earn a slice of the money. The sums demanded can run into the millions of dollars, though the captors often settle for less.