Baby handed to American soldiers during Kabul airlift chaos still missing

Baby boy Sohail Ahmadi has been missing since being handed to soldier on 19 August

Oliver O'Connell
New York
Monday 08 November 2021 20:55
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Terrified parents pass babies and children through Kabul airport crowd
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A two-month-old baby handed to American soldiers during the chaotic airlift from Kabul’s airport is still missing, months after his desperate family was evacuated from the Afghanistan capital as the Taliban took over.

Mirza Ali Ahmadi, an Afghan security guard at the US embassy in Kabul, and his family, comprising his wife Suraya and their five children, were caught up in the crowd outside of the gate into Hamid Karzai International Airport on 19 August.

A US soldier asked from over the fence if they needed help, and fearing that their baby Sohail would be crushed in the scrum of people trying to get to the gate, they handed him over.

Mr Ahmadi believed that they would soon be through the gate which was just 16 feet away and they could then collect their son from the soldier.

However, the Taliban began pushing back on the hundreds of people trying to access the airport to board evacuation flights and it took the family half an hour to get inside.

There was no sign of baby Sohail and they began desperately asking officials where he may have been taken. When directed to a special area for children by a military commander, they found it was empty.

“He walked with me all around the airport to search everywhere,” Mr Ahmadi said in an interview through a translator, adding that he did not get the commander’s name, as he does not speak English and was relying on Afghan colleagues from the embassy to help communicate.

Three days passed as they searched for Sohail.

“I spoke to maybe more than 20 people,” he said. “Every officer — military or civilian — I came across I was asking about my baby.”

A civilian official said that Sohail may have been placed on an evacuation flight by himself as there were no resources to keep a baby at the airport.

The family was put on an evacuation flight to Qatar, then Germany, and then on to the US. They are now at Fort Bliss in Texas waiting to be resettled. They have no family in the States.

The Ahmadis remain distraught, but the search for Sohail continues with Mr Ahmadi asking every official or aid worker he meets to help.

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

“All I am doing is thinking about my child,” Mrs Ahmadi told Reuters through a translator. “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.’”

Other families handed babies over the fence in the same way that the Ahmadis did. Footage went viral of one particular incident in which a baby was lifted over the razor wire fence by her arm. She was reunited with her parents.

One Afghan refugee support group, Afghan Refugee Relief, has created “missing baby” signs with pictures of Sohail and is circulating them through the network of organisations and support groups.

The case has been flagged for all the agencies involved, including the US bases and overseas locations, according to a government official.

As the separation took place overseas, both the Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security, which is overseeing resettlement efforts, referred queries on the matter to the State Department.

A State Department spokesperson 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 Center for Missing and Exploited Children”.

With reporting by Reuters

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