World News

Mother: Stow-away Son was Trying to Reach Her in Africa


The mother of a Somali-American boy who stowed away in the wheel well of a plane that flew over the Pacific says her son was trying to reach her in Africa.

Ubah Mohamed Abdullahi says she is "very shocked" by her son's ordeal and "how he risked his life."

In an interview with VOA's Somali service, Abdullahi said her son, Yahya Abdi, had recently learned that she was alive, after being told by his father that she was dead.

U.S. investigators say the 16-year-old boy snuck onto an airport tarmac in San Jose, California, and climbed into the wheel well of a Hawaiian Airlines plane.

Investigators say he managed to survive extremely low temperatures and low oxygen during the more than five-hour flight to Hawaii, where he was taken into custody and hospitalized.

Abdullahi, who lives in a refugee camp in eastern Ethiopia, says she cried and felt bad when she learned about her son's ordeal. She says many people at the refugee camp offered her support.

Abdullahi said she is divorced from the boy's father, Abdilahi Yusuf Abdi, who lives in California with Yahya Abdi and the former couple's other two children.

Abdilahi Abdi spoke to VOA's Somali service in an exclusive interview, Wednesday. He said his son frequently talks about going back to Africa "where his grandparents still live."

Abdullahi said before Sunday's incident, she had not heard anything about the children since 2006. Abdullahi says her former husband had traveled to Mogadishu and took the children away without her knowledge.

Abdullahi said she had sought help from a man that knows her family and he had recently informed the children that she is alive.

Abdullahi said her "dream" is to live with her children in the United States because "Somalia is not safe to go back to."


4/25/14/ Mother Stowaway Act 1
"I cried, felt badly and many people in the refugee camp came to me to give me support. I felt bad that he risked his life and I understand that his father subjected harsh treatment to my son."

4/25/14 Mother Stowaway Act 2
"I was told that he did this because of me. I know his mentality. You know our kids. He was the smartest of them (the kids). I know how he could react."

4/25/14 Mother Stowaway Act 3
"Yes, I know he was looking for me and I am requesting the U.S. government to help me reunite with my kids."

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making a Minti
October 07, 2015 4:17 AM
While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video Self-Driving Cars Getting Closer

We are at the dawn of the robotic car age and should start getting used to seeing self-driving cars, at least on highways. Car and truck manufacturers are now running a tight race to see who will be the first to hit the street, while some taxicab companies are already planning to upgrade their fleets. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Clinton Seeks to Boost Image Before Upcoming Debate

The five announced Democratic party presidential contenders meet in their first debate next Tuesday in Las Vegas, Nevada. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton continues to lead the Democratic field, but she is getting a stronger-than-expected challenge from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video South Carolina Reels Under Worst-ever Flooding

South Carolina is reeling from the worst flooding in recorded history that forced residents from their homes and left thousands without drinking water and electricity. Parts of the state, including the capital, Columbia, received about 60 centimeters of rain in just a couple of days. Authorities warn that the end of rain does not mean the end of danger, as it will take days for the water to recede. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs