Fugitive ‘Italian’ baby reunited with Filipino mother

Written by Staff Writer, CNN

Five years ago, a seven-month-old baby boy was given to US soldiers by his family during the chaos of the 2014 Afghanistan war. Though the child, whom US soldiers only knew as “Little Italy” and whose full name was formerly “Grandpa”, has been missing since, he has been reunited with his family in his native Philippines.

The reunion took place earlier this week in Manila, following intense speculation over the whereabouts of the boy. Philippine authorities said they had located a man who had the child when he was five years old. Authorities have also found the baby’s father.

CNN has tried to contact the father and family but been unable to reach them, with news organizations saying the family would make a public statement at a later date.

Stricken with despair

Little Italy’s mother, Jennifer Andal, was nine months pregnant at the time and staying in Afghanistan with her husband, Genoy Pacaya, an American soldier, when they were detained by the Taliban in July 2014.

The family was held captive and their two boys were handed over to other Taliban commanders. But the family was not given the option to leave, and both of their sons were initially rejected by their Afghan relatives, despite reportedly naming them.

Before she ever knew what had happened to her children, and soon after realizing that they had been handed over by Afghan authorities, Andal said she started to doubt their identity.

“No one could tell me that they were my children because they didn’t have a birth certificate,” she said to CNN in 2014. “When I heard that people who’d met the children told me their names were “Italian” and “Grandpa,” I started to doubt what they’re saying. Is it someone else? My husband? What is this?”

Little Italy’s “grandpa” is Mr. Adolfo Arcelia, a South American expatriate, and according to CNN, the boy’s maternal grandfather is a Filipino named Bismillah Serrano.

Journalist Dennis Blondeau was allowed to visit the Philippines and locate Little Italy’s father, Umm Abdullah Muhammad.

“My husband, Bismillah (Serrano), traveled to Afghanistan with my parents, myself and my siblings to re-establish our family…The family will be celebrating tonight over the Feast of Eid al-Adha, by flying a group of 16,000 family members and friends by plane to Manila for an emotional reunion,” Muhammad told CNN via text message.

“We missed him so much! Today I will have the hope and joy to see him, my nine-month-old grandson.”

Malcom Edelsten, founder of Australia’s Circular Quay in Sydney, located the family after he saw CNN’s report on Little Italy and tried to find the family. He says the baby boy’s father contacted him through Arcelia, the South American expatriate.

“I am overjoyed and overjoyed to be with my family, to be back and see my children and grandchildren,” Muhammad said.

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