The last child to be handed over to US troops has been found and is about to be reunited with his family in the United States, The Times can reveal. The six-month-old boy survived the split from his parents during the US evacuation from Kabul and a kidnap attempt.
In August, Suhail Ahmad’s disappearance sparked a desperate State Department search. He was found safe and well in a house in Kabul being cared for by an Afghan taxi driver who took him in.
Images of infants being handed by their families to US and British troops over fences and through gateways at Hamid Karzai airport in Kabul encapsulated the desperation felt by Afghan families who had helped US and Nato troops during the conflict that lasted nearly 20 years. At least four babies were separated from their families.
Ahmad was two months old when he was handed to US marines guarding the evacuation effort, but US authorities were unable to find him in the chaos. He was found by Hamid Hammedullah, a taxi driver from the Qasaba district of Kabul.
Speaking from his home in Kabul, Hammedullah said: “I was accompanying my brother, who had a special visa to leave Afghanistan, when I saw the boy. He was on a footpath in Baron camp”.
He said that his condition was “very poor” and that the infant was on the ground crying, in dirty clothes and desperately hungry and thirsty. “I simply could not leave him like this” he said. “I decided to take him home and try to find his family. If I could not find them, my wife and I were prepared to raise him as my own child.”
The baby’s family, who had special visas because of his father’s job as a guard at the US embassy, entered the airport shortly after handing him over but were unable to find him. They were told that the baby had probably been taken to Qatar or the United Arab Emirates, and so boarded their evacuation flights but were then told that his whereabouts were unknown.
There is no evidence that the baby in the main picture is the infant rescued by Hammedullah.
But in a remarkable stroke of fortune, several weeks later a passenger in Hammedullah’s taxi was part of the same Ismaili Hazara community the child belonged to. He told her about the boy and she was able to track down the Ahmadi family, who are now living in Texas. The child’s grandfather, who was living in Kabul, then confirmed his identity. While the baby was being cared for, he narrowly survived a kidnapping attempt. Two men posed as journalists and asked Hamedullah for an interview about his experience. After asking if they could take a photograph of the child, Hamid said that “they suddenly punched me and threw me on the floor of my own house. They grabbed the boy and tried to flee, but my wife saw them and screamed to our neighbours for help. One of them heard us and came in time to tackle the man and get Suhail. Thanks to God the child was unharmed.”
He says they called the Taliban police but by the time they arrived, the attackers had managed to flee.
The family is now waiting for the US government to arrange the child’s transport to America to rejoin his elated family.