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Somalia's face of war boy dies after operation

Somalia's face of war boy dies after operation

Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud, the 8-year-old boy whose bullet-shattered face personified the brutal conflict in Somalia and drew offers of aid from around the world, has died in Kenya days after a reconstructive surgery.
Dr. Peter Nthumba said Ahmed died late Wednesday of intestinal bleeding that may have been caused by an ulcer or stress. Nthumba operated on the boy, whose face was almost entirely blown off in September when a bullet hit him in the Somali capital, Mogadishu.
Relatives and well-wishers said they were shocked by the sudden death of Ahmed, a cheerful child who liked playing with a toy helicopter and spent time reading the Quran in his hospital bed. Doctors said he had not show any sign of ailment before the operation, which had gone well.
His heartbroken mother, Safi Mohamed Shidane, said that she had not expected her son's life would end.
"I was hoping to pick up a healthy son, who can breathe through his nose like others," said the distraught mother as tears ran down her cheeks. "But God said otherwise. It is God's will. Today I'm collecting his body."
When a U.S.-based aid group _ Healing the Children of Minnesota _ flew Ahmed to Kenya in October, the plan was to take him overseas. The group already had contacted hospitals in the U.S., Britain, Italy and Mexico.
But the group, funded mainly by contributions from Somali immigrants, eventually opted for Ahmed to be operated on at Kijabe Hospital in Kenya. The group has helped 56 other Somali war victims, mostly children, get medical care, said Abdi Gaal, its executive director.
Ahmed's plight drew attention to the brutal conflict in Somalia, whose capital sees near-daily bloodshed as a powerful insurgent group with links to al-Qaida tries to overthrow the fragile government.
Last year, his mother told The Associated Press that a barrage of bullets poured out from the presidential palace and struck her son as they walked home from a Mogadishu market. The bullet tore through his cheekbones, nose and mouth.
Unlike Afghanistan and Iraq, there are few images of the bloodshed in Somalia, where thousands of children have been casualties without the world knowing. Most foreign journalists stay away because of the danger.
On Sept. 24, an Associated Press photographer was present after Ahmed was shot and took pictures of the boy, bleeding profusely as he was carried from the scene by two bystanders. During the weeks that followed, AP journalists kept in touch with Ahmed and his mother.
Last year, Kijabe Hospital doctors did what they could to stitch together parts of his horribly damaged face and recommended further specialized surgery to restore his nose, and reconstruct the upper lip and damaged cheekbone.
On Monday, everything went according to plan as Nthumba cut skin from Ahmed's left hand and leg and stitched it at the place his nose once was as part of a series of operations to restore his face.
The doctor was planning to discharge Ahmed from the intensive care unit on Thursday but all of a sudden blood started to come out from his rectum, first a small amount, then "a massive amount of blood," said Nthumba, who added that the bleeding was not believed to be a complication of the surgery.
"Within 30 minutes the boy collapsed and we could not resuscitate him," he said.
Ahmed, who is survived by his parents and two older sisters, has been interred in a Muslim cemetery in Nairobi. His mother says she will return soon to violence-plagued Somalia, where the U.N. says one child in 10 dies before his or her first birthday.
"It is another tragic loss of life for a young Somali," said Katherine Grant, a child protection specialist with the U.N.'s children's agency.


Updated : 2021-07-25 20:18 GMT+08:00