THIS is the moment a baby boy who was separated from his parents during the chaotic fall of Afghanistan five months ago was reunited with his relatives.
Sohail Ahmadi was two months old when he vanished on August 19 as thousands of people rushed to leave the country during the fall of Kabul.
Following media coverage in November with his pictures, the baby was located in Kabul after a 29-year-old taxi driver Hamid Safi found him in the airport and took him home to raise as his own.
But after more than seven weeks of negotiations and pleas, and ultimately brief detention by Taliban police, Safi yesterday finally handed baby Sohail back to his jubilant grandad and other relatives still in Kabul.
They said they would now seek to have him reunited with his mum Suraya and dad Mirza Ali Ahmadi who were evacuated months ago to the United States.
The fleeing parents had feared their son would get crushed in the crowd as they neared the airport gates en route to a flight to the United States.
In his desperation that day, Mirza handed Sohail over the airport wall to a uniformed soldier who he believed to be an American, fully expecting he would soon make it the remaining five 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.
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But by then the baby was nowhere to be found.
Ahmadi said he searched desperately for his son inside 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 — eventually ending up at a military base in Texas. Yet for months they had no idea where their son was.
The case highlights the plight of many parents separated from their children during the hasty evacuation effort and withdrawal of US forces from the country after a 20-year war.
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.
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 his mother’s greatest wish before she died was for him to have a son.
He called the baby Mohammad Abed and posted pictures of all the children together on his Facebook page.
After media coverage of the missing baby, Safi’s neighbors — who had noticed his return from the airport months earlier with a baby — recognised the photos and posted comments about his whereabout.
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.
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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.
Razawi then contacted the local Taliban police to report a kidnapping.
Safi denied the allegations to the police and said he was caring for the baby, not kidnapping him.
The complaint was investigated and dismissed and the local police commander told Reuters he helped arrange a settlement, which included an agreement signed with thumbprints by both sides.
Razawi said the baby’s family in the end agreed to compensate Safi around 100,000 Afghani (£700) 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.