A 26-year-old Malian mother who gave birth to a record nine babies almost died from blood loss during the delivery, her doctors have revealed - as her proud husband said he 'can't wait to see my gifts from God'.
Halima Cissé was struggling under the six stone weight of the children and amniotic fluid and suffered a haemorrhage of her uterine artery during the caesarean section, which took place 30 weeks into her pregnancy.
A radiologist scrambled to stem the flow of blood as 18 nurses put the nonuplets into incubators. They are still on ventilators and will need another 12 more weeks in specialist care before they can breathe independently.
Kader Arby, 35, and his wife Halma Cisse Arby, 26. They were married in 2017 in Timbuktu
One of the nine babies rests in an incubator at the maternity ward of the private clinic of Ain Borja in Casablanca, Morocco on Wednesday
A nurse takes care of one of the tiny babies at the private clinic of Ain Borja in Casablanca, Morocco on Wednesday. The babies weigh between 1.1lb and 2.2lb and will be kept in incubators for two to three months
'They don't have digestive tracts which can absorb food,' Youssef Alaoui, medical director at the Ain Borja clinic, told The Times. 'A small infection in a premature baby can kill in a few hours.'
It came as Halma's soldier husband Halma Cisse Arby said of the children, 'They are gifts from God!'
In an exclusive interview with MailOnline, Kader Arby, 35, said: 'I can't wait to see my new children.
'I have been in constant touch with my wife, but I had to stay at our home in Mali to look after our other little daughter, who is just two years and five months.'
Halma and her husband are shown in this exclusive set of wedding photos from the three-day long celebration they shared in December 2017 in Timbuktu.
'Travel is of course difficult because of the pandemic, but we are arranging a trip for next week,' Mr Arby added.
'It will be a very joyful, and we will be thanking God the whole time. Our children are gifts from God.'
Mr Arby is a career soldier, serving as adjutant in the Malian Army, an administrative rank which is roughly equivalent to captain, but has been given plenty of time off to deal with his expanding family.
Among those who have been in touch by phone are Bah Ndaw, the President of Mali.
'So many people have expressed joy and kindness towards us,' said Mr Arby. 'We are very blessed.
'The babies are God's children, and they will be cared for by God.'
Asked if he or his wife had chosen the names of their nonuplets – five girls and four boys delivered by caesarean section – Mr Arby laughed and said: 'We will see!'
The multiple births have captured the imagination of everyone in the west African nation, as well as millions of others around the world.
Halma's pregnancy became a subject of fascination in Mali - even when it was thought she was only carrying septuplets
Mrs Arby and her husband pose for pictures on their wedding day, a traditional Muslim union, in 2017. Halma's pregnancy became a subject of fascination in Mali - even when it was thought she was only carrying septuplets
Father Kader Arby and mother Halima Cisse Arby on their wedding day, December 22, 2017. Mr Arby is a career soldier, serving as adjutant in the Malian Army, an administrative rank which is roughly equivalent to captain, but has been given plenty of time off to deal with his expanding family.
Mr Arby and his wife with one of their relatives on their wedding day. When doctors said in March that his wife needed specialist care, Malian President Ndaw ordered that she be sent to Morocco.
The happy couple are pictured with relatives and guests at their wedding - a three day celebration which was attended by more than 200
The couple are pictured together on their wedding day in 2017 with one of their relatives.
The couple are pictured celebrating their wedding four years ago in Timbuktu
Mr Arby, left, with his bride, right, on their wedding day in Timbuktu
When doctors said in March that his wife needed specialist care, Malian President Ndaw ordered that she be sent to Morocco.
'The facilities and medical expertise there are excellent,' he said.
'I will spend some time there, and then we will all return home together to Timbuktu as a family,' said Mr Arby.
Doctors were concerned for her welfare and the chances of the babies' survival - so the government intervened.
After a two-week stay in a hospital in Mali's capital, Bamako, the decision was made to move Ms Cissé to Morocco on 30 March.
Mrs Arby is now the mother of ten children
Prof Youssef Alaoui, medical director of the Ain Borja clinic in Casablanca where Ms Cissé gave birth on Tuesday, told the AFP news agency that the case was 'extremely rare, it's exceptional' - and a team of 10 doctors and 25 paramedics had assisted at the delivery of the premature babies.
They weighed between 1.1lb and 2.2lb and would be kept in incubators 'for two to three months', he said.
After five weeks at the Moroccan clinic, she gave birth by Caesarean section on Tuesday, the minister said.
According to Prof Alaoui, Ms Cissé was 25 weeks pregnant when admitted and his team had managed to extend her term to 30 weeks.
Mr Arby fondly remembered his wedding, a Muslim ceremony which was attended by more than 200 of their close friends and family.
'It was a big family wedding with all our loved ones - a really special day,' said Mr Arby
Mr Arby said he had been in the Army for 15 years, mainly deployed in North Mali and that his wife is training to be a Human Resources administration at the technical college in Timbuktu.
The babies, born on Tuesday, are said to be 'doing well' following their record-breaking birth in Casablanca, Morocco
Ms Cisse gave birth to nine babies (one seen above after birth) via caesarean section at a hospital in Morocco on Tuesday
'I always wanted to be a soldier - it's been a great career. It's a very demanding job, which does not give me much time for much else. When I am in the north on active service we are busy all the time, and I have to focus on the job.'
Mr Arby said he 'loves football and sport in general', but 'my family is my priority when I am at home'.
Mr Arby said his little girl was called Souda.
'Souda is only two years and five months, but she loves video calls with her Mummy.
'Mummy shared the news about Souda's new brothers and sisters. She did not fully grasp what had happened to be begin with, but she will when she meets the other babies!
'She is delighted about having siblings. It will be a big change for her. She asks questions all the time.'
Mr Arby said he will be flying from Bamako to Dakar in Senegal and then to Casablanca in Morocco next week.
Mr Arby and his wife already have a daughter together named Souda
Mr and Mrs Arby are pictured together. Mr Arby said he had been in the Army for 15 years, mainly deployed in North Mali and that his wife is training to be a Human Resources administration at the technical college in Timbuktu.
Mr Arby said he 'loves football and sport in general', but 'my family is my priority when I am at home'
'The paperwork is all ready,' said Mr Arby. 'I've been given authorisation to travel. Borders have been closed because of the pandemic, but I have been granted special authorisation to land in Morocco'.
Asked if the babies – and especially the two extra ones – were a surprise, Mr Arby said: 'It was, because the scan did not reveal nine babies. But we were delighted anyway – it was a blessing from God'.
Pushed further of his children's names, Mr Arby said: 'For the moment, it's all confidential. Our priority is their health, and looking after them.
'I speak to my wife on the phone every three to four hours, and via video calls, to check on her health, and the health of the babies.
'My wife is resting now. She's very happy, but she needs to take it easy at the moment.'
The photographer who took these wedding photos, Mohammed Aguissa, said: 'It was a big event, like most weddings in Timbuktu.
'There were around 200 people – the bride and groom's family plus all their friends gathered for three days.
'Mr Kader works as an accountant at the Army camp, but the couple live off base.
'Everyone is overjoyed at the news of the babies' births and that everything seems to be going ok, it's another time of celebration.'