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Joy as a baby given to US soldier during Afghan withdrawal is reunited with relatives

A young boy who was handed to a US soldier in despair over an airport wall in the chaos of the US evacuation from Afghanistan has been found and reunited with his relatives.

The baby, Sohail Ahmadi, was just two months old when he went missing on August 19 as thousands of people rushed to leave Afghanistan when it fell into the hands of the Taliban.

Following a Reuters story published with his photos in November, the baby was in Kabul, where a 29-year-old taxi driver named Hamid Safi had found him at the airport and brought him home to be raised as his own child. to bring. After more than seven weeks of negotiations, Safi returned the child to his cheering grandfather and other relatives still in Kabul on Saturday.

They said they would now like to reunite him with his parents and siblings who had been evacuated to the US months ago.

Sohail Ahmadi, center, at his grandfather’s house in Kabul after being found. Photo: Mohd Rasfan/AFP/Getty Images

During the tumultuous Afghan evacuation, 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 airport gates.

Mirza Ali Ahmadi said in early November that in his desperation that day, he handed Sohail over the airport wall to a uniformed soldier who he believed to be American, with full expectation that he would soon make it the remaining five meters to the airport. entrance to reclaim him. At that point, Taliban forces pushed back the crowd and it would take another half hour for Ahmadi, his wife and their four other children to enter. But then the baby was nowhere to be seen.

Ahmadi said he was desperately searching for his son at the airport and was told by officials that he had likely been taken out of the country separately and could be reunited with them later. The rest of the family was evacuated and eventually ended up at a military base in Texas. For months they had no idea where their son was.

With no US embassy in Afghanistan and international organizations overloaded, Afghan refugees have struggled to get answers about the timing, or possibility, of complex reunions like this one.

“We are working to reunite the family,” a foreign ministry official said.

Hamid Safi pats Sohail Ahmadi next to his grandfather and others after he is returned to relatives
Hamid Safi, right, the taxi driver Sohail Ahmadi found at the Kabul airport, pats the baby next to grandfather Mirza Mohammad Qasemi and others after the boy returns to relatives. Photo: Mohd Rasfan/AFP/Getty Images

The same day Ahmadi and his family were separated from their baby, Safi had slipped through the gates of Kabul airport after giving a lift to his brother’s family, who were also about to evacuate. Safi said he found Sohail alone, lying on the floor crying. After saying he tried unsuccessfully to locate the baby’s parents inside, he decided to take the baby home to his wife and children.

Safi has three daughters of his own and said his mother’s greatest wish before she died was that he would have a son. At the time, he said he had decided: “If his family is found, I will give him to them. If not, I will raise him myself.” They named the baby Mohammad Abed and posted pictures of all the children together on his Facebook page.

After the story of the missing child came out, some of Safi’s neighbors – who had noticed his return from the airport with a baby months earlier – recognized the photos.

Children went over the walls of Kabul airport amid evacuation chaos - video
Children went over the walls of Kabul airport amid evacuation chaos – video

Ahmadi asked his relatives still in Afghanistan, including his father-in-law Mohammad Qasem Razawi, 67, who lives in the northeastern province of Badakhshan, to visit Safi and ask him to return Sohail to the family.

Sohail Ahmadi is carried by his grandmother as she is the then home of Hamid Safi.  leave
Sohail Ahmadi is carried by his grandmother as they leave the then home of Hamid Safi, who found the baby crying on the ground at Kabul airport. Photo: Ali Khara/Reuters

In the presence of the police and under 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 assured them that both of you are young, Allah will give you a male child. Not one, but several,” he says. “I thanked them both for rescuing the child from the airport.”

The baby’s parents said they were overjoyed to see the reunion with their own eyes via video chat. “There are celebrations, dancing, singing,” Razawi said. “It’s like a wedding.”

Now, Ahmadi and his wife and other children, who were able to leave a military base in early December and resettle in a Michigan apartment, hope that Sohail will soon be taken to the US. “We must return the baby to its mother and father. This is my only responsibility,” his grandfather said. “My wish is that he return to them.”