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Bomb attack in Kabul
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/R. Gul

Bomber hits Kabul airport as exiled VP returns

July 22, 2018

A suicide blast has hit supporters of Afghan Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum, killing several people, as he returned to Afghanistan from exile. Dostum had left for Turkey after being accused of torturing a rival.


A suicide blast at the main entrance of Kabul airport on Sunday killed at least 14 people as supporters of Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum gathered to welcome the politician after a 14-month absence. Medical officials said at least 50 people were wounded.

"The blast happened right after Dostum's convoy left the airport," Kabul police spokesman Hashmat Stanekzai told reporters, warning that the number of causalities may rise.

Neither Dostum nor any members of his entourage were injured in the blast.

Dostum arriving at the Hamid Karzai airport before the blast
Dostum (center) has been accused of considerable brutalityImage: REUTERS

The 63-year-old politician is an ethnic Uzbek and a former warlord who aided the US in their 2001 invasion of Afghanistan by siding against the Taliban, the country's rulers at the time.

"Islamic State" (IS) group claimed responsability for the blast.

Kidnapping, torture, rape

Dostum left for Turkey in May 2017 after he was accused of organizing a kidnapping, rape, and torture of Ahmad Ishchi, a former governor of the northern province of Jowzjan.

Ishchi claims he was beaten and sexually abused by Dostum and his bodyguards for several days in the vice president's private compound in 2016. Seven of Dostum's bodyguards have already been convicted over the incident.

Afghanistan Ahmad Ishchi
Ahmad Ishchi said he was badly mistreated by Dostum's men during the alleged kidnappingImage: Reuters/O. Sobhani

However, Dostum denied he was leaving the country out of fear of being prosecuted and said he was visiting Turkey for medical checkups and family reasons.

Ahead of Dostum's return, presidential spokesman Haroon Chakhansuri said that the vice president had received medical treatment in Turkey, and he was now ready to resume his duties alongside President Ashraf Ghani.

At the same time, Chakhansuri sidestepped the question about Dostum facing charges over the Ischi incident. The spokesman said "the judiciary is an independent body; the government does not interfere in their decisions."

Dostum's supporters have launched violent protests in recent months, demanding the warlord's return.

Deja vu for Dostum

Dostum started his military career fighting for the pro-Soviet Afghan government during 1980s Soviet military intervention. For several years in the 1990s he ruled a quasi-state in northern Afghanistan dubbed Dostumistan after the warlord himself.

The former general is considered controversial even in the brutal world of Afghan politics.

Abdul Rashid Dostum with Ashraf Ghani
President Ashraf Ghani (right) relies on Dostum for support in the north Image: Getty Images/Afp/Shah Marai

Some Western media have reported that he killed up to 2,000 Taliban prisoners by letting them suffocate in metal shipping containers in 2001. Others published an account by his former driver in which he claimed Dostrum had instructed one of his bodyguards to kill his first wife.

His alleged misdeeds also include a 2008 episode that bears a striking similarity to the later Ahmad Ishchi case, when Dostum's militiamen allegedly seized and sexually abused another political rival, Akbar Bai, prompting Dostum to spend 10 months in Turkey before returning to the country.

dj/tj (dpa, AP, Reuters)