Security

Afghan baby lost during Kabul evacuation reunited with family

By Salaam Times and AFP

A family who took care of a baby lost by his family at Kabul airport during the chaotic mass evacuation in August meets again with the young boy’s relatives a day after they were reunited. Taxi driver Hamid Safi found the then two-month-old infant Sohail Ahmadi on the ground of the airport and looked after him 'as his own child', until his family was found. The child's parents are in the United States, so he was handed to his grandfather and aunt in Kabul until he can be reunited with them. [Luana Sarmini-Buonaccorsi/AFPTV/AFP]

KABUL -- A baby lost during the evacuation of tens of thousands of Afghans at Kabul airport has been reunited with his relatives after five months, his elated grandfather has said.

The boy's father handed two-month-old Sohail Ahmadi to a foreign soldier among jostling crowds desperate to flee Afghanistan following the collapse of the Afghan government last August.

The US military completed its withdrawal and historic airlift of roughly 124,000 people from Kabul airport August 30.

The pair were separated, and what happened next is unclear -- but taxi driver Hamid Safi said he found the baby crying and alone on the floor at the airport the same day.

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Sohail Ahmadi (right), who was separated from his parents at the Kabul airport during the US evacuation of Afghans in August, is held by the wife of Hamid Safi in Kabul January 9. Safi, a taxi driver, found Sohail on the ground at the airport and raised him until his family could be found. [Mohd Rasfan/AFP]

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Hamid Safi, a taxi driver who found Sohail Ahmadi on the ground at Kabul airport in August and raised him until his family could be found, kisses him in Kabul January 9. Sohail was separated from his parents at the airport. [Mohd Rasfan/AFP]

"I took him to some women to breastfeed him, but they would not... I kept looking for his family," said Safi, who had gone to the airport to help his brother with evacuation.

"I then called my wife, and she said to bring the baby home."

The couple said they kept searching for the boy's parents but, on failing to find them, gave him the name Mohammad Abed and began to care for him.

"If we had not found his family then, we would have protected and raised him as our own child," Safi, 29, told AFP.

Meanwhile, Sohail's father, Mirza Ali Ahmadi, searched for three days at the airport for his missing son, finally choosing to board a flight to the United States with his wife and four other children.

Kabul's only airport was trashed in August when tens of thousands of Afghans and foreigners scrambled to evacuate on any available flight as the United States wrapped up its withdrawal from Afghanistan after 20 years of war.

'Responsible like a mother'

It was only days ago that relatives of Sohail's were tracked down in Kabul with the help of social media and police, and the boy's grandfather reclaimed him in a heart-wrenching goodbye for the Safis and their three daughters.

"I felt responsible for him like a mother," said Safi's wife, Farimah.

"He used to wake up a lot at night... Now when I wake up, he is not there and that makes me cry."

"I'm a mother. I understand he would not always be with us and that he needs to be with his parents," she told AFP.

Her husband said handing back the baby was "very difficult" and that the Safis sorely missed him.

On Sunday (January 9), Sohail's grandfather Mirza Mohammad Qasemi invited the Safi family to his home in Kabul to spend time with the boy, whom they showered with affection.

"They looked after him for five months and were very attached to him," he told AFP, adding that the couple had initially been hesitant to hand him over.

Qasemi, who said he too had been searching for his grandson, is excited that Sohail will now be able to join his parents in the United States.

"It was hard for my daughter. She was crying and not eating anything," Qasemi said, wiping his tears as he watched Sohail sleep in Farimah's lap.

Until Sohail joins his parents, he will be looked after by his aunt, Qasemi said.

"We were in a bad condition these past five months ... But when we found our baby, we were happy that God had given our child back to us," Sohail's father told AFP by telephone from the United States.

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It is excellent news that this child joined his family. May God not make such bad days come in the life of Afghans anymore. They were very desperate days. Thank God as they passed.

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