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ISLAMABAD — U.S. Special Operations Forces who helped free the kidnapped son of a former Pakistani prime minister did not know he was there before launching the raid in Afghanistan on Tuesday, a defense official told NBC News.
"It was pure luck," a defense official told NBC News on condition of anonymity.
There were scenes of jubilation and celebration across Pakistan after the country's Foreign Affairs Ministry announced that Ali Haider Gilani had been recovered in neighboring Afghanistan.
U.S. military officials in Afghanistan earlier confirmed the rescue, saying the operation in Paktika province had involved U.S. Special Operations Forces and Afghan Commandos in "a partnered raid."
Four suspected "enemy combatants" were killed in the operation that did not claim any other lives or property, according to a statement released by the spokesman for U.S. Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A).
Pakistani officials earlier announced the operation had been carried out in Ghazni province while Afghan officials said Gilani was found during an operation to destroy an al Qaeda camp in neighboring Paktika. There was no immediate explanation for the discrepancy.
Gilani, who is aged in his 30s, had been sent to Pakistan's embassy in Kabul, according to Afghan officials.
He was kidnapped in May 9, 2013, while campaigning for his father, former Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, two days before landmark general elections.
The freed captive was "well" after having been recovered from an "al Qaeda-affiliated" group in Ghazni province, Afghanistan's Ambassador to Pakistan Omar Zakhilwal announced via Facebook.
A Pakistani security official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media told NBC News that Gilani "was sold and exchanged by different terrorist networks, which explains how he made it from [the Pakistani city of] Multan to Ghazni."
"When we first heard the news, we didn't believe it," Ali Musa Gilani, Ali Haider's brother, told Pakistani TV according to Reuters. "Right now, we don't have any plans to celebrate. We are just waiting to see his face."
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party, which the Gilanis have been associated for decades, tweeted his congratulations soon after the news was announced.
Gilani's father was prime minister from 2008 to 2012, when the Supreme Court removed him from office by over contempt of court charges related to his refusal to reopen corruption cases against then-president Asif Ali Zardari.
Gilani’s father was prime minister from 2008 to 2012, when the Supreme Court removed him from office by over contempt of court charges related to his refusal to reopen corruption cases against then-president Asif Ali Zardari.
His recapture comes just two months after Shahbaz Taseer, the son of a politician who was slain after being accused of blasphemy in Pakistan, was himself recovered after more than four years in captivity.
Salman Taseer was serving as governor of Punjab province when he was assassinated by his own bodyguard in December 2010 for defending a Christian woman on death row for blasphemy charges.