"I just want to see my children for the last time and stay forever with them"
The father of two boys and a wife who drowned trying to gain access into Europe is preparing to take their bodies home to their hometown of Kobani in northern Syria.
Abdullah Kurdi, a Syrian man of Kurdish origin, says he has no desire to move on to Europe following the harrowing ordeal he endured attempting to cross into Greece.
The distraught father was aboard a vessel heading to the island of Kos when it capsized. Mr Kurdi says he tried to hold onto his two young sons and his wife but one by one they were lost to the high waves.
Speaking outside the morgue where his family were held, he said the captain of the vessel had panicked and jumped overboard when the waves became too dangerous.
“I took over and started steering. The waves were so high and the boat flipped. I took my wife and my kids in my arms and I realised they were all dead,” he told AP.
Three-year-old Aylan, his brother, five-year-old Galip and their mother, Rehan, were among at least 12 people who perished after the vessel capsized.
The family were making the long and arduous journey to Canada where they had relatives willing to sponsor them.
Mr Kurdi says he will not be undertaking the journey now, and says he will return to the border town of Kobani to be buried alongside his family.
"My children were the most beautiful children in the world. Is there anybody in the world for whom their child is not the most precious thing?" Mr Kurdi said.
"I just want to see my children for the last time and stay forever with them.
"My kids were the most beautiful children in the world, wonderful. They wake me up every morning to play with them. They are all gone now."
Mustefa Ebdi, a journalist in the family's original hometown, said the family had been living in Damascus but been forced to flee the war's instability multiple times.
"They left Damascus in 2012 and headed to Aleppo, and when clashes happened there, they moved to Kobani. And again, when clashes (with the Islamic State jihadist group) happened there, they moved to Turkey," Ebdi, who spoke with a family friend hosting Aylan's devastated father, told AFP.
IS fighters launched a fierce offensive to seize Kobane in late 2014, but were pushed back in January by Kurdish militia, Syrian rebel forces and US-led coalition air strikes.
The family returned to Kobane, hoping it would be stable enough to resume their lives there, Ebdi said. But in June, IS fighters re-entered the flashpoint town, holding hostages in several buildings in a two-day stand-off that left more than 200 civilians dead.
Insecurity forced the family to decide they had no alternative but to try to reach Europe from Turkey, said Ebdi.
He said they stayed in Bodrum for one month, saving money and borrowing from relatives for the journey.
"They left to try to find a better life."
The bodies were to be transferred from a hospital in Bodrum to Kobane for burial in the next 48 hours, according to Ebdi.
The journalist told AFP his own attempts to speak to Abdallah were futile: "I tried to speak to him, but I couldn't because he just started crying."