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AP News

Syrian toddler thought dead reunited with parents

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — A two-year-old Syrian boy who was believed dead after his family inadvertently left him behind as they fled shelling in Damascus last summer has been reunited with his parents in Cyprus, a lawyer said Friday.

No one knows exactly how long little Bushr Al Tawashi wandered on his own in the rubble of his family home in the Al Kaboun suburb before another fleeing family found him and handed him over to rebel fighters, lawyer Stella Constantinou told The Associated Press.

Constantinou said in their haste to escape the fighting, Bushr's father Machhour Al Tawashi and his mother Arin Al Dakkar assumed that the boy was picked up by other members of their extended family who had been staying with them.

But heavy fighting prevented them from going back to search for Bushr once they realized he was missing, Constantinou said.

Believing there was little chance their boy had survived the shelling, his parents and their other two sons aged 4 and 6 arrived in Cyprus on Aug. 6 in search of asylum, up to 15 days after they had lost trace of Bushr.

But word that the boy was safe eventually reached the parents, who now live in the coastal town of Limassol, and they sought Constantinou's help to bring him to this Mediterranean island.

"You can imagine how they felt when they were told their son was alive after bearing all this guilt thinking that he was dead," said Constantinou.

Constantinou said the sister of one of her clients volunteered to go back to Damascus on Sept. 9 to take care of Bushr until arrangements for his return could be made. That woman is now being prevented from leaving the Syrian capital, she said.

The lawyer said the Cypriot Foreign Ministry expedited the process once Bushr's parents provided proof that he was their child. Bushr's father then travelled to Beirut where he was reunited with the boy at the Cypriot Embassy. He brought him back to the island on Thursday.

"All the parents keep saying is 'Thank you! Thank you!'" Constantinou said. "As a grandmother of a two-year-old myself, there's nothing I wouldn't do to get that boy back to his parents."

She added that the parents have been taken aback by all the media attention they have faced.

Activists say some 35,000 people have been killed in Syria since an uprising against President Bashar Assad's government began in March 2011.

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