GARDEN GROVE — The waiting and uncertainty ended Monday for one local family upon learning that Awni Younis, a 43-year-old businessman in Kuwait, had safely left the region and is heading home to his wife and children in Orange County.
"This is amazing," said Younis' son, Abdullah. "We kept on waiting and waiting. I didn't expect him home until after Christmas."
Younis was one of the last people from Orange County known to remain in Kuwait since the Aug. 2 Iraqi invasion. At least four families have escaped since October, the most recent coming last week with the jubilant return to Fullerton of Michelle and John Richert.
Twelve days ago, in what was viewed as a diplomatic attempt to head off war, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein announced that he was freeing all remaining Westerners in his country and in Kuwait.
Younis told his family in an early morning phone call to Garden Grove on Monday that, after several false starts because of exit-visa problems, he had made it out of Bagdhad and was staying temporarily with relatives in Jordan. He planned to return to Orange County on the first available flight from Frankfurt, Germany--by Thursday or Friday, he hoped.
"He sounded good," said Younis' wife, Kazuko. "He said, 'I'm out of this mess.' He just wants to come home and have a nice Christmas and New Year's."
Younis' wife, son and two daughters lived with him in hiding until October, when Hussein freed all women and children. Younis, a general manager at a trading company in Kuwait City, was then allowed to travel within the Iraq-Kuwait region for business and other matters but could not leave the area, his family said.
A native of the Middle East, Younis told his family that he plans to travel to London at some point to tend to business affairs left behind in his quick exit from Kuwait. But in the meantime, he plans to spend his time in Garden Grove relaxing, watching some television and catching up on his reading, his wife said.