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5-year-old Libyan amputee arrives in the U.S. for treatment

By Hussein Saddique, CNN
Malaak Al-Shami, who arrived in the U.S. on Thursday, was injured when a rocket hit her bedroom wall in Misrata, Libya.
Malaak Al-Shami, who arrived in the U.S. on Thursday, was injured when a rocket hit her bedroom wall in Misrata, Libya.
  • Malaak's home was hit during an attack by pro-government forces in Misrata
  • A rocket struck the house and exploded, injuring Malaak
  • Her brother and sister died in the attack
  • A nonprofit has brought Malaak to the U.S. to fit her with an artificial limb

New York (CNN) -- Five year-old Malaak Al-Shami arrived in the U.S. on Thursday evening to get fitted with a prosthetic leg after suffering injuries in Libya's raging civil war.

She landed at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport from Germany, the last part in a journey arranged by the Global Medical Relief Fund, a U.S. nonprofit.

The group aids children who have lost the use of, or are missing, limbs or eyes. It says it is funded almost exclusively by donations.

Malaak and her parents are being housed temporarily at The Ronald McDonald House of Long Island, which shelters families with sick children undergoing treatment at area hospitals.

"All the kids that come here, they're bewildered, reluctant; and once they're here, they open up," said Elissa Mantonti, founder of the nonprofit.

Malaak, who arrived in a wheelchair, initially appeared to be tired, but she quickly perked up when the other children housed in the facility came out to greet her.

She got off her wheelchair and started exploring a toy room and play space with the other children. She quickly befriended three Iraqi boys who, like her, speak Arabic.

They, too, were brought to the U.S. by the nonprofit. They suffered their injuries in Iraq's continuing violence, according to Mantonti.

Malaak's rebel-controlled neighborhood in the western Libyan city of Misrata was attacked by pro-government forces on May 13. A Grad rocket, which looks like an overgrown bullet about 9 feet long and 15 inches around, slammed into her bedroom wall and exploded, causing a gaping hole. Her 3-year-old brother and 1-year-old sister died in the attack.

Malaak's right leg was severed below the knee in the attack.

According to Mantonti, her organization helped arrange for the family to be ferried by boat from Misrata, which is still under siege from pro-government forces despite recent rebel advances.

From there, the family boarded a flight to Frankfurt, Germany, and continued onward to New York.

The girl's father expressed a mixture of hope and sadness upon his arrival in the U.S.

"I feel joy that my daughter will get treatment for her leg," Mustafa Al-Shami said.

"At the same time, I feel grief for the loss of my two other children. And, even though I feel that Malaak may never be the same after the attack, I'm so happy that she will be able to walk and run again one day."

She is scheduled for an initial fitting for a prosthetic leg at Shriners Hospitals in Philadelphia, with the fitting process taking up to seven weeks, Mantonti said.

The family plans to return to Libya once the treatment is complete.

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