Baby handed to US soldiers in chaos of Afghanistan evacuation still missing

Family has relocated to Texas while US authorities search for child

Afghan parents who passed their two-month-old baby over a fence outside the gates of Kabul airport on August 19 say they have not been reunited with their son.

Mirza Ali Ahmadi, his wife, Suraya, and their five children were in the chaotic crowd outside the airport gates when a US soldier, from over the tall fence, asked if they needed help.

Fearing their two-month-old baby Sohail would be crushed in the melee, they handed him to the soldier, thinking they would soon gain entrance, which was only about five metres away.

But at that moment, Mr Ahmadi said, the Taliban — which had swiftly taken over the country as US troops withdrew — began pushing back hundreds of hopeful evacuees. It took the rest of the family more than a half hour to reach the other side of the airport fence.

Once they were inside, Sohail was nowhere to be found.

Mr Ahmadi, who said he worked as a security guard at the US embassy for 10 years, began desperately asking every official he encountered about his baby's whereabouts.

He said a military commander told him the airport was too dangerous for a baby and that he might have been taken to a special area for children. But when they got there, it was empty.

“He walked with me all around the airport to search everywhere,” Mr Ahmadi said in an interview through a translator. He said did not know the commander's name, as he did not speak English and was relying on Afghan colleagues from the embassy to help communicate. Three days went by.

He said a civilian official told him Sohail might have been flown out of the country by himself.

“They said, 'We don't have resources to keep the baby here.'"

Mr Ahmadi, 35, Suraya, 32, and their other children, 17, 9, 6 and 3 years old, were put on a flight to Qatar and then to Germany and eventually landed in the US. The family are now at Fort Bliss in Texas with other Afghan refugees waiting to be resettled somewhere in the US. They have no relatives here.

Other families were handing their babies over the Kabul airport fence to soldiers at the same time, Mr Ahmadi said.

One video clip of a small baby being hoisted by her arm over razor wire went viral on social media. She was later reunited with her parents.

Ever since his baby went missing, dates have become a blur, Mr Ahmadi said. Every person he comes across — aid workers, US officials — he tells them about Sohail.

“Everyone promises they will do their best, but they are just promises,” he said.

An Afghan refugee support group created a “Missing Baby” sign with Sohail's picture on it and are circulating it among their networks in hopes that someone will recognise him.

A US government official familiar with the situation said the case had been flagged for all the agencies involved, including the US bases and overseas locations. The child was last seen being handed to a US soldier during the chaos at Kabul airport but “unfortunately no one can find the child”, the official said.

The Pentagon and the US Department of Homeland Security, which is overseeing resettlement efforts, referred queries to the State Department, since the separation took place overseas.

A State Department representative said the government is working with international partners and the international community “to explore every avenue to locate the child, which includes an international Amber Alert that was issued through the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children".

Suraya, who also spoke through a translator, said she cries most of the time and that her other children are distraught.

“All I am doing is thinking about my child,” Suraya said. “Everyone that is calling me, my mother, my father, my sister, they all comfort me and say, 'Don't worry, God is kind, your son will be found.'"

Updated: November 5th 2021, 10:05 PM
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