Blast hits Kabul airport on return of exiled Afghan vice president

Elias Hubbard
July 23, 2018

Mr Dostum, who left Afghanistan a year ago after heavy pressure from Western donors including the United States, drove away from the airport in a motorcade only minutes before the explosion on Sunday, which police said killed at least 14 people and wounded more than 50.

Afghan security personnel stand guard next to wounded comrades at the site of an attack near the Kabul International Airport, in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Dostum's return follows almost three weeks of mass protests in northern Afghanistan by his ethnic Uzbek supporters, who blocked several border crossings and government institutions, and threatened to boycott the long-delayed October elections.

The Islamic States group's local affiliate claimed responsibility for the attack on its Amaaq News Agency website, claiming it had killed and wounded over 115 people.

Ghani previous year blocked Dostum's return from exile when he tried to fly home to form an opposition alliance including senior government members.

Najib Danish, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said the suicide bomber carried out the attack near Kabul International Airport shortly after the convoy of the country's controversial Vice-President had left the airport.

Dostum's return comes amid protests in several provinces across northern Afghanistan - his traditional support base.

Thousands of Dostum's supporters have taken to the streets in recent weeks, shuttering election and government offices and blocking sections of highways to demand the release of a pro-government militia leader and to call for Dostum's return.

"We don't trust the government. We are not going to stop our protests unless our demands are met".

In a statement from the presidential palace, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani strongly condemned the attack.

Haroon Chakansuri, a spokesman for Ghani, said Dostum had gone to Turkey for almost 14 months for unspecified medical treatment, and would return home on a chartered aircraft on Sunday and be given an official reception.

He had denied the allegations and said his departure was for medical check-ups and family reasons.

Seven of Dostum's bodyguards have been convicted of the sexual assault and illegal imprisonment of Ahmad Ishchi, a former governor of the northern province of Jowzjan, in 2016.

Mr Ghani now faces the challenge of reintegrating Mr Dostum, an ally in the disputed 2014 election who helped deliver the ethnic Uzbek vote but a volatile and unpredictable partner ever since.

Mr. Dostum is one of several controversial figures whom Kabul has sought to reintegrate into mainstream politics since the USA -led invasion in 2001.

Dostum, accused of war crimes committed after the fall of the Taliban government in 2001, has also been criticized by the United States for human rights abuses.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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