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US Marine accused of abducting Afghan baby

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Kabul: Afghan-American activists have expressed indignation after reports suggested that a US Marine and his wife abducted a baby girl during the chaotic American military withdrawal from Afghanistan in August last year, reports said.

The baby girl, barely 7-month-old at the time, had been pulled from the rubble after her parents and five siblings were killed in a US military strike on September 6, 2019. After treatment at a local hospital, she had gone to live with a newlywed Afghan couple, identified as her relatives.

No details have been publicly revealed about the September 2019 US military raid, but classified reports show the US government “sent helicopters full of special operators to capture or kill” a foreign fighter.

In a report on Monday, the Middle East Eye (MEE) said the orphan was abducted after the US Marine lured her legal guardians to the US with the promise of providing medical treatment for injuries she sustained during the botched military operation.

The child’s extended family filed a lawsuit against the US Marine Joshua Mast and his wife Stephanie Mast in the Virginia District Court on September 2, saying the girl was forcibly taken once she arrived in the US in September 2021.

According to court documents, as soon as the child’s legal guardians arrived in the US, they met with a social worker who took the child from them.

“We call on the State Department, the Department of Justice, and the US Marine Corps to immediately investigate the methods that Joshua Mast used to kidnap this child and to intervene in the ongoing court case to bring forth justice and reunite her with her family,” Halema Wali, the co-founder of Afghans for a Better Tomorrow, was quoted as saying by MEE.

According to the suit, the Marine, working through his attorney and brother Richard Mast, had already obtained a custody order for the baby despite the child having Afghan citizenship as well as legal guardians in her home country.

The Masts deny that they deceived the family and took the baby from them, with Richard Mast saying in a motion to dismiss the lawsuit that he informed them of his “relationship and legal responsibility for the child”.

On Sunday, the Afghan foreign ministry called the case worrying, saying it was “far from human dignity and an inhumane act”.

The complainants also named Richard Mast; and Kimberley Motley, an American lawyer who has been working in Afghanistan for more than a decade; as well as Ahmad Osmani, a Baptist pastor who acted as a translator between the families; as co-conspirators in the lawsuit.

Motley and Osmani were reportedly involved in wrangling with the family to convince it to bring the baby to the US.

Motley is said to have known the real intentions of Masts and that they had obtained a custody order.

“In coordination with Joshua and Stephanie Mast, however, Motley did not disclose the Masts’ true intentions to the Does [name given to the complainants],” the complaint read.

After 20 years of military presence in Afghanistan, the US-led allied forces last year retreated from the country which resulted a dramatic comeback of the Taliban.

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