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14 killed as blast strikes near Kabul airport soon after exiled first vice president returns

In a 2002 file photo, Gen. Abdurrashid Dostum poses for pictures after making a statement to the media at the foreign ministry in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan.

CONTRA COSTA TIMES

By J.P. LAWRENCE | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 22, 2018

KABUL, Afghanistan — More than a dozen people were killed in an explosion near Kabul airport soon after controversial Afghan first vice president Abdurrashid Dostum returned from exile Sunday.

Najib Danish, a spokesman for the interior ministry, said 14 people were killed and more than 50 others were wounded in the blast, which took place minutes after Dostum’s convoy left the airport. Dostum and members of his entourage were unharmed.

"Initial reports suggest there was a suicide bomber that detonated his explosives after Gen. Dostum's convoy had passed the entrance of the airport. There are casualties, but we cannot give an exact number right now," said Kabul police spokesman Hashmat Stanikzai.
Dostum, an ethnic Uzbek general who fought against the Taliban, was forced to leave for Turkey last year amid sexual assault charges but will resume his duties as first vice president under President Ashraf Ghani.

Dostum is infamous for acts of cruelty that include accusations of ordering tanks driven over enemies' legs and suffocating hundreds of Taliban prisoners inside sealed truck containers.

His return highlights divisions within the Afghan government that threaten to tear the country apart ahead of national parliamentary and presidential elections this fall and next spring.

Another bombing targeted Dostum’s followers in Shar-e-Naw park on Monday, but the bomber was shot dead before reaching his target. Supporters at a rally called for Dostum’s return and threatened to boycott elections and form their own government if their demands were not met.

Violent protests spread across Afghanistan’s northern provinces after government soldiers arrested one of Dostum’s proteges in Faryab on July 4 after reports he threatened to kill government officials.

It is not clear whether Dostum will face charges on the accusations that prompted his one-year exile in Turkey. A political rival accused Dostum of raping him and ordering that he be sexually assaulted with a gun barrel.

Zubair Babakarkhail contributed to this article.

lawrence.jp@stripes.com
Twitter: @jplawrence3

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