Trying to pry his son from IS, medic killed in Turkey attack

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Family, friends and officers carry the Tunisian flag-draped coffin of the head of the pediatric service at the Tunis military hospital, Col. Fathi Bayoudh, one of the victims killed Tuesday at the blasts in Istanbul's Ataturk airport, during his funeral.

Family, friends and officers carry the Tunisian flag-draped coffin of the head of the pediatric service at the Tunis military hospital, Col. Fathi Bayoudh, one of the victims killed Tuesday at the blasts in Istanbul's Ataturk airport, during his funeral. (Photo: Hassene Dridi)

Tunisian pediatrician Fathi Bayoudh was trying to rescue his son from the Islamic State group's grasp, and had almost succeeded. Then, as Bayoudh waited to greet his wife in an Istanbul airport so they could help bring their 25-year-old son Anouar home, the suicide bombs exploded.

Col. Fathi Bayoudh was buried Friday in his hometown of Ksour Essef, one of dozens killed in Tuesday's attack in Turkey, blamed on IS extremists.

Their faces wrought with grief, hundreds of family members, friends, uniformed officers and a Tunisian presidential aide attended the ceremony in central Tunisia for Bayoudh, head of the pediatric service at the Tunis military hospital.

Bayoudh's son was among thousands of young Tunisians who have joined IS amid this country's post-revolution economic crisis. His family is still trying to figure out why.

A medical student who had also trained to be a pilot, Anouar left in November for Switzerland for more studies, according to his distraught mother, Saida.

He suddenly cut off all contact with his family, then called a month and a half later to tell them he had joined IS in Iraq, she said. He traveled to the IS stronghold of Raqqa in Syria — but then had a change of heart.

According to his mother, Anouar told her, "I was looking for truth, and I thought I found it with IS. It turned out it was a sham."

Anouar sent a message to his father saying: "Papa, help me. I'm traumatized. Help me to get out."

Fathi Bayoudh responded, "I will sacrifice myself for you, my son."

The father traveled back and forth to Turkey repeatedly in the ensuing months working to extract Anouar. A smuggler working with the Free Syrian Army helped the son cross into Turkey and turned him over to Turkish authorities, his mother said.

"My husband, very happy with this outcome, called me to tell me to come to Turkey to go see our son," she said. "We thought it was the end of the nightmare we had been living for months.

"But fate decided otherwise, with the attacks that coincided with my arrival at the airport," she said.

"The entire night we searched from one hospital to another but everyone told us they didn't have him," she said. The next morning they tried again, and one hospital "told us that there was a Tunisian man and we went to identify the body, and it was him. God bless his soul."

Anouar remains in Turkish custody, awaiting extradition. Tunisian presidential adviser Kamel Akrout said at the funeral that he could return to Tunisia as soon as Saturday.

Fathi Bayoudh's death "is a loss for Tunisia, and the military institution," he said, because Bayoudh was known for "his high morals, his professionalism and volunteering spirit."

Bayoudh's cousin Sonia described him as "a man with a good heart, committed to humanitarian work."

His widow will soon see her only son again. She fears, however, that he doesn't yet know what happened to his father.

-AP

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