Baby lost in chaos of Afghanistan airlift found, returned to family after long ordeal

ALONE AT THE AIRPORTOn the same day Ahmadi and his family were separated from their baby, Safi had slipped through the Kabul airport gates after giving a ride to his brother's family who were also set to evacuate. Safi said that he found Sohail alone and crying on the ground. After he said he unsuccessfully tried to locate the baby's parents inside, he decided to take the infant home to his wife and children. Safi has three daughters of his own and said that his mother's greatest wish before she died was for him to have a son. In that moment he decided: "I am keeping this baby. If his family is found, I will give him to them. If not, I will raise him myself," he told Reuters in an interview in late November. Safi told Reuters that he took him to the doctor for a check-up after he was found and quickly incorporated the child into his family. They called the baby Mohammad Abed and posted pictures of all the children together on his Facebook page. After the Reuters story about the missing child came out, some of Safi's neighbours - who had noticed his return from the airport months earlier with a baby - recognised the photos, and posted comments about his whereabouts on a translated version of the article. Ahmadi asked his relatives still in Afghanistan, including his father-in-law Mohammad Qasem Razawi, 67, who lives in the north-eastern province of Badakhshan, to seek out Safi and ask him to return Sohail to the family. Razawi said that he travelled two days and two nights to the capital bearing gifts - including a slaughtered sheep, several pounds of walnuts and clothing - for Safi and his family. But Safi refused to release Sohail, insisting that he also wanted to be evacuated from Afghanistan with his family. Safi's brother, who was evacuated to California, said that Safi and his family have no pending applications for US entry. The baby's family sought help from the Red Cross, which has a stated mission to help reconnect people separated by international crises, but said that they received little information from the organisation. A spokesperson for the Red Cross said that it does not comment on individual cases. Finally, after feeling they had run out of options, Razawi contacted the local Taliban police to report a kidnapping. Safi told Reuters he denied the allegations to the police, and said that he was caring for the baby, not kidnapping him. The complaint was investigated and dismissed, and the local police commander told Reuters that he helped to arrange a settlement, which included an agreement signed with thumbprints by both sides. Razawi said that the baby's family in the end agreed to compensate Safi around 100,000 afghani (US$950) for expenses incurred looking after him for five months. "The grandfather of the baby complained to us and we found Hamid, and based on the evidence we had, we recognised the baby," said Hamid Malang, the chief area controller of the local police station. "With both sides in agreement, the baby will be handed over to his grandfather," he said on Saturday. In the presence of the police, and amid lots of tears, the baby was finally returned to his relatives. Razawi said that Safi and his family were devastated to lose Sohail. "Hamid and his wife were crying, I cried too, but assured them that you both are young, Allah will give you male child. Not one, but several. I thanked both of them for saving the child from the airport," Razawi said. The baby's parents told Reuters that they were overjoyed as they were able to see with their own eyes the reunion over video chat. "There are celebrations, dance, singing," said Razawi. "It is just like a wedding, indeed." Now, Ahmadi and his wife and other children, who in early December were able to move off the military base and resettle in an apartment in Michigan, hope that Sohail will soon be brought to the US. "We need to get the baby back to his mother and father. This is my only responsibility," his grandfather said. "My wish is that he should return to them."

Baby lost in chaos of Afghanistan airlift found, returned to family after long ordeal

ALONE AT THE AIRPORT

On the same day Ahmadi and his family were separated from their baby, Safi had slipped through the Kabul airport gates after giving a ride to his brother's family who were also set to evacuate.

Safi said that he found Sohail alone and crying on the ground. After he said he unsuccessfully tried to locate the baby's parents inside, he decided to take the infant home to his wife and children. Safi has three daughters of his own and said that his mother's greatest wish before she died was for him to have a son.

In that moment he decided: "I am keeping this baby. If his family is found, I will give him to them. If not, I will raise him myself," he told Reuters in an interview in late November.

Safi told Reuters that he took him to the doctor for a check-up after he was found and quickly incorporated the child into his family. They called the baby Mohammad Abed and posted pictures of all the children together on his Facebook page.

After the Reuters story about the missing child came out, some of Safi's neighbours - who had noticed his return from the airport months earlier with a baby - recognised the photos, and posted comments about his whereabouts on a translated version of the article.

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

Razawi said that he travelled two days and two nights to the capital bearing gifts - including a slaughtered sheep, several pounds of walnuts and clothing - for Safi and his family.

But Safi refused to release Sohail, insisting that he also wanted to be evacuated from Afghanistan with his family. Safi's brother, who was evacuated to California, said that Safi and his family have no pending applications for US entry.

The baby's family sought help from the Red Cross, which has a stated mission to help reconnect people separated by international crises, but said that they received little information from the organisation. A spokesperson for the Red Cross said that it does not comment on individual cases.

Finally, after feeling they had run out of options, Razawi contacted the local Taliban police to report a kidnapping. Safi told Reuters he denied the allegations to the police, and said that he was caring for the baby, not kidnapping him.

The complaint was investigated and dismissed, and the local police commander told Reuters that he helped to arrange a settlement, which included an agreement signed with thumbprints by both sides. Razawi said that the baby's family in the end agreed to compensate Safi around 100,000 afghani (US$950) for expenses incurred looking after him for five months.

"The grandfather of the baby complained to us and we found Hamid, and based on the evidence we had, we recognised the baby," said Hamid Malang, the chief area controller of the local police station. "With both sides in agreement, the baby will be handed over to his grandfather," he said on Saturday.

In the presence of the police, and amid lots of tears, the baby was finally returned to his relatives.

Razawi said that Safi and his family were devastated to lose Sohail. "Hamid and his wife were crying, I cried too, but assured them that you both are young, Allah will give you male child. Not one, but several. I thanked both of them for saving the child from the airport," Razawi said.

The baby's parents told Reuters that they were overjoyed as they were able to see with their own eyes the reunion over video chat.

"There are celebrations, dance, singing," said Razawi. "It is just like a wedding, indeed."

Now, Ahmadi and his wife and other children, who in early December were able to move off the military base and resettle in an apartment in Michigan, hope that Sohail will soon be brought to the US.

"We need to get the baby back to his mother and father. This is my only responsibility," his grandfather said. "My wish is that he should return to them."