Distraught father of dead Syrian toddlers: I tried to save my family

Abdullah Kurdi, father of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, cries as he leaves a morgue after identifying the bodies of his wife and sons Credit: Reuters

Video report by ITV News Correspondent Paul Davies

The distraught father of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi - whose death caused an international outcry - has described his desperate attempts to save his family.

Abdullah Kurdi told reporters at Arabic Al Aan TV that he tried to keep hold of his loved ones as they clung to the side of the boat but they "slipped away".

He sobbed as he arrived at a morgue in Mugla, Turkey, to identify the bodies of Aylan, his other son Galip, five, and his wife Rehma, 35, who all perished.

Mr Kurdi said he was forced to take over the steering of the ship when the boat's captain panicked due to the high waves and jumped into the sea.

"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 the Associated Press.

"All I want is to be with my children at the moment."

"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," he said.

The image of Aylan lying face down in the sand piled the pressure on European leaders to tackle the crisis, which has claimed thousands of lives already this year.

Mr Kurdi said he now plans to return to their home in Kobani, in war-torn Syria, to bury his family and be buried alongside them.

He also revealed that Canadian officials had offered him citizenship after seeing what had happened but that he had declined.

"The things that happened to us here, in the country where we took refuge to escape war in our homeland, we want the whole world to see this," Abdullah was quoted as saying.

"We want the world's attention on us, so that they can prevent the same from happening to others. Let this be the last," he said.

Aylan (left) and Galip Kurdi (right) drowned along with their mother when the boat they were in capsized. Credit: .

His sister, Teema Kurdi, who lives in Vancouver told Canada's National Post newspaper that she had been informed of the tragedy this morning after Mr Kurdi had telephoned another sister.

"She had got a call from Abdullah, and all he said was, my wife and two boys are dead," she said.

The family were among at least 12 presumed Syrian refugees, other young children among them, who died trying to reach Kos after two boats, carrying a total of 23 people, set off from the Akyarlar area of the Bodrum peninsula.

The family had been trying to emigrate to Canada after fleeing Kobani, Ms Kurdi said.

Mr Kurdi wants to be buried alongside his family in their home city of Kobane. Credit: Reuters

Kobani has been the scene of intense fighting over the last year. In recent months Kurdish regional forces have been trying to repel attempts by Islamic State to recapture the town.

Tens of thousands of Syrians fleeing the war in their homeland have descended on Turkey's Aegean coast this summer to board boats to Greece.

The Turkish army said its search and rescue teams had saved hundreds of migrants in the seas between Turkey and Greek islands over the last few days.