Somalia's Face of War Boy Dies After Operation

By: Malkhadir M. Muhumed - AP Writer
By: Malkhadir M. Muhumed - AP Writer

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) - A Somali boy who was horribly disfigured months ago by a stray bullet in Somalia's violent capital has died just days after undergoing reconstructive surgery in neighboring Kenya, his doctors said Thursday.

The plight of 8-year-old Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud was reported by
The Associated Press in November in a story, photos and video, two
months after he was shot in Mogadishu. Ahmed personified the
civilian toll in the brutal conflict in Somalia and drew offers of
aid from around the world. The bullet tore through his cheekbones,
nose and mouth and destroyed his right eye.

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 on Monday in the Kenyan capital.

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 the operation 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," Shidane said 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.

Somalia's capital sees near-daily bloodshed as a powerful
insurgent group with links to al-Qaida tries to overthrow the
fragile U.N.-backed government.

Last year, his mother told AP that a barrage of bullets poured
out from the presidential palace and one struck her son as they
walked home from a Mogadishu market on Sept. 24.

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. An AP photographer was present right
after Ahmed was shot and took pictures of the bleeding boy as he
was carried away 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 face and recommended further specialized
surgery to restore his nose and reconstruct the upper lip and
damaged cheekbone.

On Monday, Nthumba removed 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 had been planning to discharge Ahmed from the
intensive care unit on Thursday but the previous day, the boy
suddenly suffered massive intestinal bleeding that was not believed
to be a complication of the surgery, said Nthumba.

"Within 30 minutes the boy collapsed and we could not
resuscitate him," he said.

"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.

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 Somalia, where the U.N. says one child in 10
dies before his or her first birthday.

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