NAIROBI, KENYA—Abdul Hassan waits like an expectant father as he tracks the escape.
Ismael is on his way to the airport in Mogadishu.
Ismael has arrived.
Ismael’s plane has departed Somalia.
He is at the safe house. He will be in Nairobi soon.
Hassan, a Somali-born Canadian, has spent three sleepless nights and days, waiting for his phone to ring or beep with word that torture victim Ismael Khalif Abdulle had made it out.
Then, at 3:30 on a sunny afternoon here in Kenya’s capital, Hassan breathes a sigh of relief as he slings his arm around Ismael’s shoulders, and with tears in his eyes, leads the slight teenager into a taxi.
As it pulls into a gas station to refuel five minutes later, the exhausted 18-year-old leans his head back and says to Hassan in Somali, “You are my second father.”
Ismael is but one teenaged victim born in country whose unending war has held its citizens hostage or scattered them as refugees around the world.
Somalia has not had a stable government in almost two decades, but the latest fighting has pitted the internationally recognized Transitional Federal Government against Al Shabab, a group of Islamic insurgents aligned with Al Qaeda.
Ismael became a victim of that war in the summer of 2009, when he refused to join the Shabab— he wanted to go to school. Shabab fighters returned to punish his defiance, kidnapping him and holding him hostage with three others.
A month later, he was taken before a crowd of more than a hundred. Masked men severed Ismael’s right hand, and as they tightened a tourniquet to ensure he wouldn’t bleed to death, he passed out. His left foot was amputated as he lay unconscious in the blazing afternoon sun.
Ismael says he was left for four hours without pain medication and cried to the man standing over him with an AK-47. “I asked the guard to just end the pain and suffering and just kill us,” he recalls.
“He told me that, ‘If I kill you, I’ll get killed myself.’ ”
Two weeks later, his captors went at his leg again, this time sawing three fingers above the first cut.
Eventually, Ismael escaped and found refuge with a federal minister.
Ismael’s story was first told in a January Toronto Star article describing the rise of the Shabab.