A newborn baby girl dumped on the side of a road in Afghanistan and rescued by Polish troops – who initially thought the little bundle was a bomb – has begun a new life as a treasured member of a childless family.
The baby, named 'Pola' by the Polish troops when she was found during a patrol on September 19, was first taken to the soldiers' base in Ghazni province south of Kabul and then transferred to the local hospital.
"The soldiers noticed a small thing wrapped in a towel on the side of the road. At first they thought it was an IED (improvised explosive device), but when they got closer they found out it was a baby," hospital director Baz Mohammad Rahmat told AFP.
"They picked up the baby and took her to their base and called us. We told them to bring her to the hospital. The baby was two days old and was in good health."
Before going to the hospital, Pola was given a medical check and food by the Polish soldiers, part of Nato forces fighting the Taliban.
"I was called to the (Tactical Operations Centre) for an urgent task: buy milk, a bottle and a teat," said Polish Master Corporal Miroslaw Myszka, according to a report on the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) website.
"At first I thought that they were joking, but they told me briefly a history of the child so I conducted this task as quickly as I could. It is my fourth tour but I have not had such a task yet."
How the baby came to be on the side of the road is not known, but one theory is that she was born to an unmarried mother who could not face the punishment the birth would provoke.
Another theory is that she could have been dumped simply because she was a girl in a country where boys are more highly valued.
But whatever her past, her future is bright, according to her adoptive father, 29-year-old Ghazni shopkeeper Zahir Rahimi.
"I have been married for four years, but I don't have a child yet," he told AFP in the one room he and his wife rent in a mud house on the outskirts of Ghazni city.
"My wife and I have visited several doctors for treatment, but nothing seems to work."
Rahimi said he had decided to take a second wife – permitted under Afghan law – in an attempt to have a child, before a fortuitous visit to Ghazni hospital.
"That day, I had taken my cousin to the hospital, and there I found out about the baby. I immediately contacted the doctor and told him I didn't have kids and wanted that baby very badly," he said.
"The doctors agreed and gave her to me. I'm very glad now, we have a baby and I don't have to get married again.
"We have named her Aria (Happiness). She has brought a lot of happiness to us. I want my baby to grow up, go to school and have a very good future."