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  4. An Afghan couple says a US Marine abducted their baby when they evacuated to the US. He says it was a legitimate adoption.

An Afghan couple says a US Marine abducted their baby when they evacuated to the US. He says it was a legitimate adoption.

Kelsey Vlamis   

An Afghan couple says a US Marine abducted their baby when they evacuated to the US. He says it was a legitimate adoption.
  • An Afghan couple is suing Marine Major Joshua Mast and his wife, Stephanie Mast.
  • The couple alleged the Masts engaged in a fraudulent scheme to unlawfully abduct their baby.

A couple from Afghanistan who evacuated to the US as refugees last year have accused a Marine of abducting their baby shortly after they arrived, according to a lawsuit filed last month in federal court.

The couple, identified as Jane and John Doe, accused Major Joshua Mast and his wife, Stephanie Mast, of conspiracy, fraud, and false imprisonment related to what they describe as the unlawful abduction of the child, identified as Baby Doe. The lawsuit and accusations were first reported by the Associated Press on Thursday.

The lawsuit says Baby Doe's family, including her parents and five siblings, was killed in September 2019 during a US special military operation in rural Afghanistan. Baby Doe, two months old at the time, was seriously injured but survived, and was transported to a military hospital.

Joshua Mast, then a Marine Corps captain who was stationed in Afghanistan, "fraudulently obtained a custody order" for the child in a Virginia court, the lawsuit said. However, the US government did not take action to release Baby Doe to the Masts. An unnamed State Department official told AP they felt strongly that the baby belonged to Afghanistan, not the US, and that under international humanitarian law they were required to try and find her next of kin.

The officials expressed such views about six weeks after the baby was rescued during a meeting at the U.S. embassy in Kabul that was attended by the Red Cross, Afghan officials, and the US military, which included Mast, AP reported.

While Mast pursued efforts to adopt the baby, who was still in Afghanistan, her family was eventually found. The baby was released to her first cousin, identified in the suit as John Doe, and his wife, Jane Doe, who assumed legal guardianship of her.

The Masts also tried to appeal to the office of Vice President Mike Pence to have the baby brought to the US, AP reported, and even tried to reach out to President Donald Trump via Mick Mulvaney, who at the time was serving as the White House chief of staff.

The Masts eventually got in touch with John and Jane Doe, and their lawyer told the couple the Marine wanted to ensure the baby got the medical attention she needed, but did not disclose their true intention of adopting the baby, according to the lawsuit. The couple claimed that the Masts communicated with them for over a year.

In August 2021, the same month US forces chaotically withdrew from Afghanistan, John and Jane Doe traveled to the US with Baby Doe under the premise of getting her medical care, the lawsuit said, "only to have Joshua and Stephanie Mast tear her away from the only parents she had known for most of her life."

John and Jane Doe told AP the Masts had helped coordinate their travel to the US. When they arrived at an airport in Washington, D.C., they were shocked to see Mast produce an Afghan passport for the baby — with his own last name printed on the document, the AP reported.

Lawyers for John and Jane Doe and the Masts did not immediately respond to Insider's requests for comment.

The Masts, who last week filed a motion to have the lawsuit dismissed, have denied the accusations and insisted their adoption of Baby Doe was legal.

"Joshua and Stephanie Mast have done nothing but ensure she receives the medical care she requires, at great personal expense and sacrifice, and provide her a loving home," the motion said.

The Masts have also alleged in emails to military officials viewed by AP that the baby's family was not killed as the result of a special military operation but rather a suicide bombing, accusing her family of being terrorists, a charge John and Jane Doe have denied. The Masts have also cast doubt on whether or not the couple was even related to the baby, which the Red Cross, which reunites relatives in war zones and identified the couple as the baby's next of kin, has refuted, AP reported.

Justice Department lawyers have also contradicted the Masts' claim, describing their custody documents obtained in Virginia as "unlawful," according to AP.

The Afghan couple told AP they have been devastated since losing Baby Doe. "Right now, we are just dead bodies. Our hearts are broken. We have no plans for a future without her. Food has no taste and sleep gives us no rest," Jane Doe told the outlet.

A flier obtained by AP suggested the Masts shared their story at a church service in Ohio on February 27, 2022. The service was not broadcast online and the flier gave little details, but said: "Unforeseen events gave the couple an unexpected opportunity to stand up and protect innocent life. Come hear how God's mighty hand allowed for a remarkable deliverance."

Have a news tip? Contact this reporter at kvlamis@insider.com.


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