Details of Disappearance
Layla, her sister Amina
, and their brother Sami
are missing from Kent, Ohio. They were abducted by their non-custodial father, Ashraf Saiyed Ahmed Al-Jailani. Photographs of Ashraf are posted below with case summary. An FBI warrant for international parental kidnapping was issued for him on July 28, 2006.
Ashraf's date of birth is December 24, 1963, making him 42 years old at the time of the children's abductions. He's described as Asian, 5'9 and 162 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes. He has a master's degree in geochemistry and speaks four languages. He was previously employed as a chemist in Akron, Ohio.
The children's family history is complicated. Michelle Swensen, the children's mother, met Ashraf, a native of Yemen, in Japan while she was studying abroad at college. She stated he became controlling and abusive, and she left him at one point and went to a woman's shelter, but after 30 days she returned. After he attacked her at a mall in Akron, Ohio in 2001, he was charged with domestic violence and violating a protective order. He pleaded guilty and sentenced to probation.
Ashraf was detained as a suspected terrorist in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. He was held in Pennsylvania for three and a half years without charges. In the summer of 2004, Swensen was hospitalized for depression for two months.
A photograph of Swensen is posted with this case summary. She claims the depression was a result of her husband's detention. He was the only working person in the family and Swensen and the children had to go on public assistance after his arrest.
Sami, Layla and Amina were taken into foster care at the time of their mother's hospitalization, under the auspices of the Portage County Department of Job and Family Services. They were placed in a Christian foster home, although their parents wanted them placed with Muslims.
At one point the county promised to return the children to Swensen, but reneged. They said it was because she had not been taking her anti-depressant medication reliably, but she said it was because the social worker assigned to the family was prejudiced against Muslim individuals. Ashraf is a Muslim, but Swensen is a Christian. After the children had been in foster care for five months, they were returned to Swensen's care.
Ashraf was eventually released from federal custody without being charged with any crimes. He was deported to Yemen, but remained in contact with Swensen and asked her to bring the children to visit him, since he was no longer allowed into the United States. Swensen took the children to Yemen in April 2006; they were to spend the summer with their father and then return to Ohio.
Ashraf refused to honor the agreement, however. He took Swensen's and the children's passports and placed a travel ban on them. Under Yemeni law, a man's wife or children are not allowed to leave the country without his permission. Eventually, Ashraf allowed Swensen to return to the United States, but he refused to release the children.
Swensen made two trips to Yemen in an effort to get the children back. She stated she saw Ashraf physically abuse them. In October 2006, she took Sami, Amina and Layla from their father's house and ran away with them. She hid for a week, but was unable to leave the country with the children.
After Swensen and the children were located, Ashraf told his wife she would not be allowed to visit them again. Swenson has not seen her son or daughters since. They kept in touch by email for a time, and she calls them once a week, but Ashraf monitors the calls. Swenson has made a website detailing her fight to get her children back.
Swensen describes Layla as a laid-back, easygoing, gentle and generous child. Although Sami, Layla and Amina's whereabouts are known, they are still listed as missing children because they are not with their custodial mother. Their cases remain unsolved.