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Somali man reunited with family in Triangle after 14 years

Posted June 30, 2016 8:39 p.m. EDT

— A war tore them apart more than a decade ago, but the efforts of an Elon University Law School student helped reunite a Somali family Thursday at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

Mohamed Mohamed was separated from his mother at the age of 13 during an ongoing civil conflict in Somalia.

"They were separated when rebel troops came into their town, and Mohamed, who is the oldest brother, took four siblings off to Ethiopia," said Angelique Ryan, a law school student who worked with Elon's Humanitarian Immigration Law Clinic to secure his passage to the U.S.

The Greensboro-based clinic has been working for five years to reunite Mohamed with his mother, Saadia Abdi, who was granted refugee status in the U.S. years ago after fleeing war and genocide in Somalia.

Abdi was able to locate Mohamed and three of her other children – another three have died from illness or in the war – and they were given permission in 2014 to come to the U.S. as refugees.

"All four were at the airport, and Mohamed was pulled back and the other children left," Ryan said.

In December, Ryan traveled to Ethiopia to meet with U.S. embassy officials there to lobby for Mohamed's refugee status and clear up procedural problems, such as questions about the date on his birth certificate. She also set up a GoFundMe page to quickly raise the $1,200 needed to pay a fine the Ethiopian government was assessing before allowing Mohamed to leave the country.

Mohamed finally arrived at RDU on Thursday, where he was greeted with tears and hugs from his mother, siblings, other family members and Ryan.

"I'm not going to sleep," he said through a translator.

"Happy, happy, happy. Today, no sleep for me," an ecstatic Abdi said.

"I'm shocked and amazed that Mohamed is finally here where he belongs," Ryan said.