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Relatives gain custody of Afghan siblings injured in suicide bombing

Ferishta Stanekzai has been able to bring her niece and nephew home with her.

BRISTOW, Va. — September 24 Update:

After WUSA9's story aired Thursday evening, the facility fulfilled Ferishta Stanekzai wish and she has been able to bring her niece and nephew home with her.

Original Story:

A family in Alexandria is forced to wait even longer before their young loved ones, injured in a suicide bombing in Afghanistan, can live with them. 

Ferishta Stanekzai is worried for her 13-year-old nephew Faisal and 8-year-old niece Mina, who are currently staying at Youth For Tomorrow in Bristow, Virginia. YFT is a counseling and residential center for at-risk children and unaccompanied immigrant minors. 

Stanekzai and her parents feel the kids should be staying with them instead. The siblings were recently treated at Walter Reed after a suicide bombing outside the Kabul airport injured them and killed 85 people, including their mother. 

Their aunt would visit them at the hospital every day to feed and comfort them. Stanekzai had the impression that she would gain custody of the kids once they were processed from the hospital. Instead, they were transferred to Prince William County on September 13 where it is unclear how long they will stay there.

"It's so hard for the kids, for myself and for my parents," Stanekzai told WUSA9. "I still don't know when we'll have them and when they will be released to me."

Stanekzai said the children were only able to make phone calls until Tuesday when she finally got to see them in person again after more than a week. The aunt worries about their emotional well-being having to stay at an unfamiliar place away from loved ones.

"Mina was telling me, 'Aunt, should I pack, should we go with you?'" Stanekzai recalled. "I said not for now."

The family is seeking help from attorney Arthur von Keller who plans to start the process of gaining custody of the children. He wants to determine what the exact process and what protocols are in place. 

Stanekzai claimed YFT has all the proper documents but is waiting to hear from the government on a decision. 

"Children who were forced to leave Afghanistan for their safety as their country crashed around them should be handled in an expeditious and more humane way than what's presently happening," von Keller said. "The question is can an appropriate exception be made by a local court to allow family reunification?"

Air Force Lt. Gen. John Bradley, president and CEO of Lamia Afghan Foundation, and his brother Tom Bradley helped bring the children to the U.S. Tom Bradley has been helping Stanekzai by driving her to the hospital and YFT. 

"These children have been through a traumatic event being at a bombing at the airport, then moved by people they don't know to Germany and then to the U.S. being visited by their aunt every single day to be separated again," John Bradley said. "It would only make sense to anyone presented with these facts the children would be much better off with a relative."

John Bradley has asked for help from several Congress members including Senator Mark Warner. 

WUSA9 has reached out to Youth For Tomorrow for comment but did not hear back as of Thursday night.

RELATED: Afghan children injured in suicide bombing in Kabul reunite with family at Walter Reed

RELATED: Fearful US residents in Afghanistan hiding out from Taliban

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