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The father of a Colorado State student was killed while fleeing the violence in Sudan

CAMILA DOMONOSKE, HOST:

Some of the people who have died in the violence in Sudan have been civilians. One of them was the father of Khalid Maleeh. Abubaker Abumasha was a Sudanese immigrant who settled in the Denver area years ago. He recently visited his home country to spend the end of Ramadan with his wife and daughters there. They spent what were described as five amazing days in Khartoum together. But then the war broke out. Khalid, who didn't travel to Sudan, describes what happened when his father was killed by gunfire trying to evacuate Khalid's mom and sisters back to their ancestral village.

KHALID MALEEH: All my family were in three cars lined up. My parents, my mom and my father, all three of my little sisters and my uncle - they were in the last car, following everyone just to make sure, you know, that nothing happens, you know? And then my uncle told me once they reached this checkpoint, that they told everyone, go. Like, they can proceed with their journey. And then my uncle just tells me that after that, they just start hearing shots ringing off, going throughout the car. And then my mom grabs my little sisters, ducks, and then my dad ends up getting shot in the foot. And then after he gets shot in the foot, he looks behind him - my mom was just telling me - he looks behind him, trying to protect my little sisters, trying to get them down. And then a bullet just comes and hits him in his head.

DOMONOSKE: The rest of your family who was with him - they all survived?

MALEEH: They all survived. My dad was the only one that got hit.

DOMONOSKE: Your mom and your sisters and your uncle - where are they now?

MALEEH: Well, after that, my uncle took the car, and then he went into a neighborhood, like, to get protection, to get away from that live fire. My little sisters - they're still so young, you know? Like, them seeing my dad like that - you know, it really just changed them. I have pictures of the car, of, like, how much blood was in the car. You know, even me just looking at it, like, it's kind of hard, you know? It really shatters my heart to know my dad passed away like that.

DOMONOSKE: It must have been so heartbreaking for you because you're so far away.

MALEEH: I'm far away, you know, and I didn't even get to attend my own dad's funeral. So it really just - yeah.

DOMONOSKE: When was the funeral?

MALEEH: The same day - you know, we - they decided, you know, they could finish their journey. They ended up going to Omdurman. And they had my dad - I'm Muslim. So we have a thing called Janazah where we wash the body, we wrap it around with cloth, and then we have the burial.

DOMONOSKE: Have you talked to your mom and your sisters recently? How are they doing where they've arrived?

MALEEH: They're just trying to stay safe, you know? I've just been talking to them over the phone, and I'm worried about them. I'm still worried.

DOMONOSKE: Do they have food and water and access to all the things they need?

MALEEH: The stores are closed, so eventually everything's going to run out, you know? So I don't know. I just want to get my family back home safe, you know, as soon as possible.

DOMONOSKE: I understand that your father was the breadwinner for your family and supported you and your grandmother, who's also there in Colorado.

MALEEH: A hundred percent. My dad, you know - he's - he worked his tail off seven days a week. And ever since I was born, I can't remember a day where I didn't see my dad go to work. And, you know, he was a taxi driver. Anything I ever wanted in my life, he made sure I had it, you know? And, like, he did that with just working hard, you know, just - you know, it just hurts my soul because I'm a civil engineering major. You know, my dad was so proud. I wanted to make him retire. I never got that chance.

DOMONOSKE: I understand he also meant a lot to the broader Sudanese American community in Denver. Can you talk about what your dad meant for his community?

MALEEH: Yes, ma'am. Well, you know, yesterday we had a - we rented out a place. It's called the Navi Sudani (ph). It's a place where a lot of Sudanese people come, you know, and just chill there. And all my uncles are there. Like, I consider - they're not all my uncles, but I consider them all my uncles - all my dad's friends. My dad - he did help with the Sudanese community a lot. You know, anything - if there was any traumatic event, you know, my dad was always there. My dad would always tell them, you know, like, we got to go help these people, you know. More than five people have stayed at our house that came from Sudan so that they can get on their feet, you know? He was always welcoming because that's what my dad went through too. My dad came to America, and, you know, he came here looking for a way, and he did it.

DOMONOSKE: How will you remember him?

MALEEH: When he was living, everything he did was for me and my sisters and my family. So now I just feel like everything I do now is for him. I'm going to make him proud. And, like, you know, before he passed away, it's like he told me what he wanted me to do. He told me a lot of stuff, you know? I'm going to just listen to what he told me and keep going, you know?

DOMONOSKE: Khalid Maleeh is a freshman at Colorado State University, and his father was Abubaker Abumasha. Thank you so much for speaking with us.

MALEEH: Thank you, guys, for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Camila Flamiano Domonoske covers cars, energy and the future of mobility for NPR's Business Desk.