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British Boy Kidnapped In Pakistan Freed Unharmed

Five-year-old Sahil Saeed (identity card photo)
JHELUM, Pakistan (Reuters) -- A British boy kidnapped nearly two weeks ago while on vacation in Pakistan has been freed unharmed by his abductors, police and relatives said, ending a high-profile ordeal.

"I've talked to him on the phone, my little boy.... That has reassured me that he is safe and he has been released from the kidnappers," 5-year-old Sahil Saeed's mother, Akila, told reporters in Britain.

"He is going on and on and on about his toys and his sisters and everything like this, just as a normal little boy," she said.

"It was amazing. At first we thought it wasn't true as we have had a couple of false reports that he'd been found last week. But then we had phone calls from everywhere saying, yes, it is true."

Pakistan will hand him over to the British embassy, Aslam Tarin, regional police chief, told a news conference earlier.

Sweets were handed out at the home of the boy's relatives in the town of Jhelum after they received a call from the kidnappers that he had been left in the nearby garrison town of Kharian.

Tarin said Sahil was "playing with the police".

Gunmen held Sahil's relatives at gunpoint for hours and took away 150,000 rupees ($1,750) and some gold during the kidnapping, and later demanded a 10 million rupee ($118,000) ransom.

Provincial Law Minister Rana Sanaullah told Reuters an "international gang of kidnappers" was responsible.

"We are trying to bust this gang with the help of other countries," he said, without elaborating.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik had said he suspected some relatives were involved in the abduction, which made big news in the British and Pakistani media.

But Tarin said: "We have found no evidence of involvement of his father or any of his family members in it [the crime]." The father has returned to the United Kingdom, he added.

"It is fantastic news which brings an end to the traumatic ordeal faced by Sahil and his family," the British High Commissioner in Islamabad, Adam Thomson, said in a statement.

Kidnapping is a major problem in Pakistan and many of the crimes go unreported. Local media said today that the dead body of a 2-year-old Pakistani girl who was kidnapped for ransom was found near the northwestern city of Peshawar.