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Afghan Vice President Dostum Escapes Suicide Attack; 14 Others Killed

Afghanistan's First Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum returned to Kabul on July 22.
Afghanistan's First Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum returned to Kabul on July 22.

Afghan Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum narrowly escaped a deadly suicide bombing at Kabul airport as he returned home from more than a year in exile in Turkey over allegations of torturing and abusing a political rival.

Afghan officials said Dostum, a powerful former warlord, had left the airport in a motorcade only minutes before the blast struck at the entrance of the airport on July 22, killing at least 14 people.

Dostum was unharmed, said his spokesman, Bashir Ahmad Tayanj.

The Islamic State (IS) extremist group claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement, saying a suicide bomber targeted a crowd celebrating Dostum's return. It gave no further details.

Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish said at least 14 people, including both civilians and members of the security forces, were killed in the attack and 50 others wounded. He did not give a breakdown.

Danish said the explosion was "caused by a suicide attacker on foot."

Kabul police spokesman Hashmat Stanekzai also confirmed that at least 14 people were killed in the attack.

"The blast happened right after Dostum’s convoy left the airport," said Kabul police spokesman Hashmat Stanekzai.

Hundreds of Dostum's supporters had gathered at the entrance of Kabul airport to welcome home the ethnic Uzbek leader from exile.

Dostum returned to Kabul after more than a year in self-imposed exile in Turkey amid claims that he had ordered his men to abduct, beat, and rape a political rival in 2017.

Dostum had been undergoing medical treatment in Turkey, was now well, and would resume work, presidential spokesman Haroon Chakhansuri said.

Dostum left the country in 2017, after the attorney general's office opened an investigation into allegations that his followers had tortured and sexually abused Ahmad Ischi, a former political ally from Dostum’s Junbesh party.

Dostum had denied the allegations and said his departure was for medical checkups and family reasons.

It was not clear whether Dostum will face charges.

A deputy government spokesman told RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan on July 21 that “legal matters will be pursued according to the law.”

Dostum is a controversial figure who has been accused of serious human rights violations, including the deaths of hundreds of Taliban prisoners in 2001 in the custody of his militia forces.

With reporting by Radio Free Afghanistan, Reuters, AP, AFP, and ToloNews

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