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A desperate child handed over to a soldier through an airport wall in the chaos of the US evacuation from Afghanistan was found and was reunited with relatives in Kabul on Saturday.
Sohail Ahmadi was only two months old when he disappeared on August 19 when thousands of people rushed out of Afghanistan when he fell into the hands of the Taliban.
Following an exclusive Reuters story published in November with the photos of him, the baby was located in Kabul, where a 29-year-old taxi driver named Hamid Safi had found him at the airport and brought him home to raise as his own.
After more than seven weeks of negotiations and pleading, and finally a brief arrest by the Taliban police, Safi finally returned the boy to his jubilant grandfather and other relatives still in Kabul.
They said they would now seek him to meet his parents and siblings who were evacuated to the United States months ago.
Baby Sohail Ahmadi is carried by a relative as they leave Hamid Safi’s house.
During the tumultuous Afghan evacuation over the summer, Mirza Ali Ahmadi, the boy’s father who had worked as a security guard at the US embassy, and his wife Suraya feared their son would be crushed in the crowd as they approached the gates. from the airport on the way to a flight to the United States.
Ahmadi told Reuters in early November that in desperation that day, he handed Sohail over the airport wall to a uniformed soldier who he believed to be an American, in the full hope that he would soon reach the remaining 5 meters (15 feet). ) until the entrance to claim it.
Just then, the Taliban forces pushed the crowd back and it would be another half hour before Ahmadi, his wife and his four other children could enter.
But by then, the baby was nowhere to be found.
Ahmadi said that he desperately searched for his son inside the airport and officials told him that they had probably taken him out of the country separately and that he could meet them later.
The rest of the family was evacuated and eventually ended up at a military base in Texas. For months they did not know where his son was.
The case highlights the plight of many parents separated from their children during the hasty evacuation effort and the withdrawal of US forces from the country after a 20-year war. read more
Without the US embassy in Afghanistan and overburdened international organizations, Afghan refugees have struggled to get answers about the timing or possibility of complex reunifications like this one.
The US Department of Defense, the State Department
The US Department of Defense, the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security did not respond to requests for comment on Saturday.
On the same day that Ahmadi and his family were separated from his baby, Safi slipped through the gates of the Kabul airport after taking her brother’s family, who also had to evacuate.
Safi said that he found Sohail alone and crying on the ground. After he said that he tried unsuccessfully to locate the baby’s parents inside, he decided to take him home to his wife and children. Safi has three daughters and said that his mother’s greatest wish before she died was for him to have a child.
At that point he decided, ‘I’m keeping this baby. If they find her family, I’ll give it to them. If not, I will raise it myself, ”he told Reuters in an interview in late November.
The complaint was investigated and dismissed, and the local police commander told Reuters that he helped fix an agreement, which included an agreement signed with fingerprints by both parties. Razawi said the baby’s family eventually agreed to compensate Safi about 100,000 Afghans ($ 950) for the expenses he incurred to care for him for five months.
“The baby’s grandfather complained to us and we found Hamid and based on the evidence we had, we recognized the baby,” said Hamid Malang, the head of area control at the local police station. “With both sides in agreement, the baby will be given to his grandfather,” he said Saturday.
In the presence of the police, and amid many tears, the baby was finally returned to his relatives.
Razawi said Safi and his family were devastated to lose Sohail. ‘Hamid and his wife were crying, I cried too, but I assured them that they are both young, Allah will give them a male child. Not one, but several. I thanked them both for saving the boy from the airport, ”Razawi said.
The baby’s parents told Reuters they were delighted that they were able to see the reunion with their own eyes via video chat.
Sohail Ahmadi Quick and Facts
- Sohail Ahmadi was just two months old when he went missing on August 19
- Baby was located in Kabul after taxi driver Hamid Safi, 29, took him in as his own
- Safi finally handed the child back to his jubilant grandfather yesterday
- Family is now planning to get baby reunited with parents in United States