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Viral baby, face of Afghanistan crisis of 2020, finally reunited with relatives

 

KABUL: An infant boy handed in desperation to a soldier across an airport wall in the chaos of the American evacuation of Afghanistan has been found and was reunited with his relatives in Kabul on Saturday.

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

After a report by Reuters went viral, the baby was located in Kabul where he had been adopted by a taxi driver named Hamid Safi who found him at the airport.

After more than seven weeks of negotiations and pleas, and ultimately a brief detention by Taliban police, Safi finally handed the child back to his jubilant grandfather and other relatives still in Kabul.

The relatives have said that they would now seek to have him reunited with his parents who were evacuated months ago to the United States following the fall of the government.

According to reports, Mirza Ali Ahmadi, the boy’s father who had worked as a security guard at the U.S. embassy.

He handed Sohail over the airport wall to a uniformed soldier who he believed to be an American, hoping to make it the remaining 5 meters (15 feet) to the entrance to reclaim him.

Just at that moment, Taliban forces pushed the crowd back and it would be another half an hour before Ahmadi, his wife and their four other children were able to get inside.

They eventually ended up at a military base in Texas.

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 he found Sohail alone and crying on the ground and took him home.

After the Reuters story about the missing child came out, some of Safi’s neighbors – who had noticed his return from the airport months earlier with a baby – recognized 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 northeastern province of Badakhshan, to seek out Safi and ask him to return Sohail to the family.

Razawi said he traveled 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 he also wanted to be evacuated from Afghanistan with his family. Safi’s brother, who was evacuated to California, said Safi and his family have no pending applications for U.S. 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 they received little information from the organization. A spokesperson for the Red Cross said 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 he was caring for the baby, not kidnapping him.

The baby’s family in the end agreed to compensate Safi around 100,000 Afghani ($950) for expenses incurred looking after him for five months.

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

Razawi said Safi and his family were devastated to lose Sohail.

Ahmadi and his wife and other children were in early December able to move off the military base and resettle in an apartment in Michigan, hope Sohail will soon be brought to the United States. The baby’s grandfather has said that it is his wish to see the baby reunited with his parents.

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