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Pakistan grills suspect over kidnapped British boy

Last Updated: Friday, March 5, 2010 - 15:26

Jhelum: Pakistani police on Friday stepped up their search for a five-year-old British boy kidnapped on a family holiday, questioning at least one suspect as his father begged for his son`s release.

Intruders snatched Sahil Saeed from his grandmother`s house in the town of Jhelum about 100 kilometres (65 miles) south of the capital Islamabad on Thursday, stealing jewellery and cash, and demanding a USD 120,000 ransom.

They stormed into the house and held the family at gunpoint while Sahil and his Pakistani father were preparing to get a taxi to the airport and fly home to Oldham, relatives and officials said.

Police blamed a kidnapping gang for the abduction and said they were conducting a full-scale investigation to recover the child.

The Foreign Office confirmed that Pakistani police had arrested a man in connection with the kidnapping and he was being questioned.

"We are hopeful," local police station chief Shahbaz Ahmed said in Jhelum late Thursday.

"Teams are working and we are struggling hard. We have found clues and hopefully we will deliver results very soon."

From his mother`s large villa, Raja Naqqash Saeed appealed for his son`s release, saying he feared his young son would not he able to communicate with his captors because he speaks only English.

"I request the kidnappers to please send back my son. He is very mature but he cannot speak Urdu or Punjabi. I am worried how he would communicate with them if he is hungry or he needs to go to toilet," he said.

Overcome with anguish back in England, Sahil`s mother Akila Naqqash broke down when she heard about her son`s abduction.

"All I want is my son back safe, what has he done?" she told Sky News television, sobbing: "He`s only a little five-year-old boy, what has he done? Just bring him back, please."

Naqqash said he was "just a sweet little boy" but she did not know how to help, adding: "All I can do is just pray."

Her husband said the kidnappers had demanded a ransom of 10 million rupees (USD 120,000) -- but said he could not pay.

"Four armed men barged into the garden," he said, adding that they carried loaded guns and grenades.

"They thrashed me, my brother and his wife and our uncle... They searched the house and took money, gold, whatever they saw, they just took it," he said.

"They told me that they were going to take your child if I did not pay them 10 million rupees. I told them that I did not have this much money. I told them that whatever I had, they had already taken," he said.

Phil Woolas, member of parliament for Oldham and a government minister, warned Britain might have to review its travel advice about the area.

"This is not an area of Pakistan which has been caught up in the war. That is worrying. Clearly when this is all over -- hopefully pray God safety -- we will have to review the travel advice," he told Sky.

"But there`s no reason to think that this is a pattern," he added.

Pakistan has been battling Islamist militants for years, but the violence is largely confirmed to the restive northwest tribal region, which Washington considers a hub for Taliban and al Qaeda-linked fighters.

Kidnappings of Westerners are rare in Pakistan, but criminal gangs -- some connected to the Islamist militant networks -- abduct locals for ransom in parts of the country. Other kidnappings are blamed on family disputes.

The British High Commission in Pakistan said it was providing assistance to the family and working with the local authorities.

Bureau Report

First Published: Friday, March 5, 2010 - 15:26

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