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Blackwater's Youngest Victim

Nine-year-old Ali Kinani died from a gunshot wound to the head in the Nisour Square massacre. His father may be the one man standing between Blackwater and total impunity.

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Mohammed rushed around to Ali's door and saw that the window was broken. He looked inside and saw his son's head resting against the door. He opened it, and Ali slumped toward him. "I was standing in shock looking at him as the door opened, and his brain fell on the ground between my feet," Mohammed recalls. "I looked and his brain was on the ground." He remembers people yelling at him, telling him to get out while he could. "But I was in another world," he says. Then Mohammed snapped back to consciousness. He put Ali back in the car and placed his hand over his son's heart. It was still beating. He got in the driver's seat of his car, tires blown out, radiator damaged, full of bullets, liquids leaking everywhere, hoping still that he could save Allawi's life. Somehow he managed to get the car near Yarmouk Hospital, right near the square. He picked up Ali and ran toward the hospital. He nearly collapsed on the road, and an Iraqi police officer took Ali from his arms and ran him into the hospital.

Mohammed checked that the other children were safe and then dashed to the hospital. "I entered the emergency room, and blood was everywhere, dead people, injured people everywhere," he remembers. "My son was in the last bed; the doctor was with him and had already hooked him with an IV line." As Mohammed stood by Ali's bed, the doctor told him that Ali was brain dead. "His heart is beating," the doctor said, "and it will continue to beat until he bleeds out and dies." The doctor told him that if there were any hope to be found, it would require taking Ali in an ambulance to a neurological hospital across town. The fastest route meant that they had to pass through Nisour Square. Iraqi police stopped them and told them they could not pass. "The US Army is here and won't let you through," the officer told them. The driver took an alternate route and was going so fast the ambulance almost crashed twice. When they got to the hospital, Mohammed offered to pay the driver -- at least for the gas, which is customary. The driver refused. "No, I would like to donate blood to your son if he needs it," he told Mohammed. A few moments later, Mohammed stood with a doctor who told him there was nothing they could do. Ali was dead.

Mohammed wanted to take his son's body home with him, but the hospital regulations required that he get papers from the police. So Mohammed had to leave. He spent hours tracking down the right authority to sign off. Finally he was able to take Ali's body to prepare him for a Muslim burial. That night there was no electricity in Baghdad, so they had to run a generator to keep air-conditioning going to protect Ali's body from the sweltering heat. The next morning they took Ali to the southern holy city of Najaf to be buried at the family plot. "As Muslims, we believe that Ali died innocent with no obligation," says Mohammed. "My son died at an age where there were no strings attached. My son was young and innocent, so he flew up [to heaven] like a white dove. This is what's making it easier on me. I always tell my wife that your son is a bird in heaven, he's with God and when we die we will be united eternally." Mohammed looks down and then up. "I still thank God for everything. I thank him because we were six in that car, and he's the only one to go. Although that one is piece of my heart, it happened and I can't change it. I have my other kids that I will raise, and hopefully I'll be able to keep them safe."