ISLAMABAD (AFP) — A five-year-old British boy was reunited with his overjoyed father Thursday following a nearly two-week kidnapping ordeal in Pakistan, playing football in high spirits and smothered in hugs.
Sahil Saeed kicked a ball around the lawn of the British high commissioner’s residence in Islamabad with a little girl, then smiled and waved while cuddled by his father and other relatives in footage broadcast by television stations.
The emotional reunion came after his father, Raja Naqqash Saeed, flew back to Pakistan to collect his son and return him to Britain days after the boy’s uncle dropped off a ransom of 110,000 pounds (168,000 dollars) in Paris.
Saeed’s mother Akila Naqqash, who has spoken to her son by telephone from her home in Oldham, northern England, has said he can expect a “big party” when he arrives back home.
The ordeal began when Sahil was snatched at gunpoint from his grandmother’s house in the town of Jhelum, about 100 kilometres (65 miles) south of Islamabad, in the early hours of March 4 at the end of a family holiday.
Pakistani authorities, helped by British officials, launched a manhunt for the boy, and 12 days later Sahil was recovered safe and sound in a field not far from Jhelum as the focus of the investigation switched to France and Spain.
A Pakistani man and a Romanian woman were among five people arrested by police Tuesday.
The couple travelled from the northeastern Spanish town of Constanti, which has a large Pakistani community, to Paris where they collected the ransom money and returned to Spain, where they were arrested.
Another Pakistani man was also arrested in Constanti while French police detained two family members of the man who went to Paris for being accomplices. They had put up the couple at their apartment in the French capital.
The authorities made the arrests once they were informed that Sahil had been recovered in Pakistan and was safe, said the head of Spanish police’s economic and violent crime unit, commander Serafin Castro.
Police found nearly 104,000 pounds and over 3,000 euros in the couple’s flat in Constanti as well as several mobile telephones, including one which was used to make calls to the boy’s father in Paris, and a new computer.
The couple had already been charged with murder and at the time of their arrest were on provisional release while they awaited their trial.
Castro said four men armed with grenades and Kalashnikovs stormed the house in Jhelum and tied up all the family members as well as the driver of a taxi which had been booked for the airport, before leaving with the boy.
Kidnappings of Westerners are rare in Pakistan but abductions of locals are all too common.
They are often related to family quarrels, love affairs, property disputes or simple quests for money — particularly for the wealthier victims — by criminal gangs, some of whom are connected to Islamist militant networks.