Armless Iraqi Boy Bears No Grudges for U.S. Bombing

Mon August 11, 2003 02:25 PM ET

By Gideon Long
LONDON (Reuters) - A boy whose armless torso, horrific burns and haunted eyes symbolized civilian suffering in the Iraq war smiled for the cameras Monday and said he bore no grudges against U.S. forces for his injuries.

Ali Ismaeel Abbas, 13, victim of a U.S. bombing raid on Baghdad that killed his parents and other family members, spoke to reporters at Queen Mary's Hospital in London where he and another Iraqi boy are due to be fitted with artificial limbs.

In a sign of his affection for Britain's biggest soccer club, Ali said he wanted a Manchester United logo on one of the artificial arms he will be given.

"I'm looking forward to getting the ... limbs as soon as possible," said Ali, speaking through a translator.

"He's very grateful to the British people and he assures us he has no bitter feelings," said Zafar Khan, chairman of the Limbless Association, which is affiliated to the rehabilitation center where the boys will be treated.

"Even for the Americans he has no grudges."

Ali, whose photograph was splashed across the world's newspapers in April as he lay in a Baghdad hospital after the bombing raid, had both his arms blown off during the attack.

His father, pregnant mother, brother, aunt, three cousins and three other relatives were all killed.

Ahmed Mohammed Hamza, 14, who appeared before the cameras with Ali, lost part of his left leg and his right arm in a similar incident.


The Kuwaiti medical team accompanying the boys seemed eager to parade them as envoys for global peace, but Ali and Ahmed looked relaxed and unassuming as they sat before dozens of photographers and TV cameramen at the hospital.

Ali, making his first public appearance in Britain since arriving for treatment, wore a denim shirt over the stumps of his arms. Ahmed, in a wheelchair, wore a blue and white T-shirt adorned with a picture of England soccer captain David Beckham.

Nick Hillsdon, a limb specialist at the hospital, said both boys would sport Manchester United logos on their new arms.

"We asked Ali if he wanted a laminated Manchester United badge on the socket and he said he was keen on that," Hillsdon said.

"We were hoping we could get one of them to support a London club, but we asked the other guy and he said he wanted Manchester United as well."

Ali's injuries are particularly severe because his arms were blown off very high above the elbow. Doctors hope to fit him with rotating wrists and electrical hands that will allow him to do things like hold a book and turn the pages.

"We should be able to provide him with a high level of independence," said Dr Sellaiah Sooriakumaran, leader of the medical team treating the boys.

The limbs, each costing about $30,000-$40,000, will have to be changed regularly as the boys grow. The Kuwaiti government has said it will foot the bill for all medical care until the boys reach adolescence.

An Anglo-American research group, Iraq Body Count, estimated last week between 16,000 and 20,000 civilians were wounded in the war based on media reports and the findings of independent investigators. Britain and the United States say it is impossible to give any accurate figures.