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Pakistan boy’s kidnap is global drama

From the video, it might have seemed a moment as unexceptional as it was fond — a boy playing soccer with his father on a sunlit lawn, sending messages of affection back home to his mother.

world Updated: Mar 19, 2010 01:09 IST

From the video, it might have seemed a moment as unexceptional as it was fond — a boy playing soccer with his father on a sunlit lawn, sending messages of affection back home to his mother. “Mummy, I miss you,” the boy with the shaved head and big eyes tells the camera at the prompting of his father. “Mummy, I love you.”

But the images of Sahil Saeed, age 5, and his father, Raja, made public on Thursday, offered a closing chapter in a harrowing saga of kidnappers, cops, ransom and surveillance that reached from Pakistan’s Punjab Province to the streets of Paris and, finally, to a suitcase stuffed with used bills in an apartment house near Barcelona, Spain.

The remarkable trail led police to arrest three suspects in Spain and two in Paris.

Sahil and his father, both from Oldham in northwest England, were on vacation with relatives in Jhelum, Pakistan, when armed robbers burst into the house where they were staying on March 4 and seized the boy, demanding $155,000 for his release.

Kidnappings for ransom are not unusual in Pakistan, but this one became prime-time, front-page news in Britain while the boy’s whereabouts remained a mystery — until Tuesday when the boy was found wandering and alone in fields near Jhelum.

The police got their first break when a call from the kidnappers to Sahil’s father, demanding ransom, was traced back to Spain.

The callers told Saeed, 28, to go to Manchester. When he got there, he was told in another phone call to head on the Paris with the ransom. As Sahil’s father handed over the ransom money to two people on a street in Paris, a surveillance team tracked the exchange and followed it to the village of Constanti in northeast Spain.

When Sahil walked free thousands of miles away in Pakistan, a Spanish SWAT team stormed an apartment house near Barcelona and seized roughly $147,500 of the ransom money, cellphones and a computer.

The Spanish police also arrested two Pakistani men and a Romanian woman, who was accused of having travelled to Paris with one of the men to take the ransom.