A war of words has erupted over the role of Aylan Kurdi's father in the Syrian toddler's drowning.

Some passengers on the boat that capsized near Greece say Kurdi was working with smugglers and driving the boat - which he vehemently denies.

Iraqis Ahmed Hadi Jawwad and his wife, who lost their 11-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son in the crossing, told Reuters that Abdullah Kurdi panicked and accelerated when a wave hit the boat, raising questions about his claim that somebody else was driving.

Another passenger confirmed their version, which Reuters could not independently verify.


"The story that [Aylan's father] told is untrue. I don't know what made him lie, maybe fear," Jawwad said in Baghdad. "He was the driver from the very beginning until the boat sank."

He said Kurdi swam to them and begged them to cover up his true role in the incident. His wife confirmed the details.

Jawwad said his point of contact with the smugglers was named Abu Hussein. "Abu Hussein told me that he [Kurdi] was the one who organised this trip," he said.

Reuters was unable to reach Kurdi by telephone in the Syrian city of Kobane.

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However, Kurdi told Britain's MailOnline the accusations were untrue. "I thought about driving the boat but I didn't do it. That is all lies," he said.

"This is not true. If I was a people smuggler, why would I put my family in the same boat as the other people? I paid the same amount to the people smugglers," he told the newspaper.

In comments to Kurdish news outlet Rudaw this week, Kurdi blamed a Turkish smuggler but did not name him.