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US Teenager Heading Home After Skipping School and Going to Iraq

U.S. embassy officials in Iraq say an American teenager, who skipped school and flew to Baghdad, without his parents' permission, is on his way home.

American student Farris Hassan, 16, is bound to be in some trouble with his mother when he gets home. In mid-December, the Florida student decided to skip school, buy a plane ticket, and head to Baghdad, all without his parents' permission.

"As far as being punished for going to Iraq, I think he's going to lose some of his autonomy for a while. He's going to lose his passport for sure, and his access to money is going to be pretty limited, and he has to be under close supervision for a while," said Farris' mother, Shatha Atiya.

The teenager, whose parents are Iraqi, has said he was inspired by a high school journalism class to visit the war-torn country. Farris speaks no Arabic, and called attention to himself with his trendy Western attire. He says his solo adventures took him to Kuwait, Lebanon and Iraq.

Farris contacted his parents from the Middle East to let them know of his trip. He traveled to Lebanon, before hopping a flight bound for Baghdad.

Farris then sought out the offices of The Associated Press news agency, telling reporters he was in Iraq to do humanitarian work and to report news. The sight of a lone American teenager stunned AP journalists, such as Jason Straziuso. "We were amazed that he walked in by himself unaccompanied, and our very first thought was, 'Who was this kid? And how do we get him to safety?' So, it was at that point that we called the U.S. embassy," he said.

He remained in the embassy's care, until he boarded a U.S.-bound flight Friday.

An AP writer in Baghdad, Patrick Quinn, emphasized the dangers of traveling in Iraq, especially for a teenager on his own. "He was at very great risk. I don't think he realized just how much or how great the risk was. People get killed every single day in Baghdad, people get kidnapped every single day," he said.

Following Farris' journey, the U.S. State Department reiterated its travel warning, underscoring the dangers of trips to Iraq.