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Last Updated: Monday, 16 October 2006, 15:36 GMT 16:36 UK
Madonna baby flies out of Malawi

The Malawian baby that pop star Madonna is seeking to adopt has left the African country on board a private jet.

An immigration official told BBC News that the passport of 13-month-old David Banda had been authorised.

The child was accompanied by one of the singer's bodyguards, a witness told Reuters news agency, and is believed to be en route to South Africa.

A group of Malawian charities has said the adoption is unlawful because Madonna has not lived in the country.

The Human Rights Consultative Committee of 67 organisations had been due to go to court on Monday seeking an injunction to halt the adoption process.

But it deferred the move, saying it needed more time to follow up reports of family members opposed to the boy going abroad.

The group said it wanted to interview an unidentified uncle of David's who is "said to be opposed to the adoption plan".

Justin Dzodzi, who chairs the rights group, said it had sent investigators to the orphanage where David lived to "get a feel of what the villagers and relatives feel about the adoption and if anyone opposes it".

Why not support the child's paternal father, house them, feed them, educate the little boy for life and give him the chance to succeed in his own society?
Maddelean, Cairo

He added: "We want to thoroughly prepare for this challenge and part of our legal action is dependent on getting some disgruntled people to swear affidavits."

The committee insists that Malawian law prohibits international adoption and requires a minimum of 18 months' assessment.

But Penston Kilembe, director of child welfare in the Ministry of Gender, Child Welfare and Community Services, said Madonna and her husband Guy Ritchie had broken no laws.

"The process did not start today - Madonna's people have been pushing the papers for some time and her coming was just to sign the papers to conclude the process," he said.

Madonna and her film-maker husband had been granted an interim court order approving the adoption.

The couple returned to the UK at the weekend after a 10-day visit to Malawi.

Malawian officials said David Banda was being cared for by members of Madonna's entourage while passport and visa issues were dealt with.

Father's consent

The child lived at the Home of Hope Orphan Care Centre in a village close to the border with Zambia, after his mother died a month after his birth from related complications.

The boy's father, Yohame Banda, has agreed to the adoption.

"What I want is a good life for my child," he said.

Madonna travelled to the region with Ritchie to help fight poverty and the problem of HIV and Aids.

She has pledged to donate about $3m (1.6m) to help 900,000 orphans in Malawi.

The 48-year-old already has two children, five-year-old son Rocco and nine-year-old daughter Lourdes.

Madonna on a visit to Malawi

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