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Afghanistan's vice president has survived a Taliban ambush after his forces fought off insurgents in a northern Afghanistan region near Central Asia.

Insurgents attacked Dostum's convoy late afternoon on August 21 on a remote highway in Faryab Province, which border Turkmenistan.

The former communist general is leading government forces and loyalist militias against the Taliban and their Central Asian militant allies in restive Faryab districts where hundreds have died and thousands displaced in recent months.

Lawmaker Bashir Ahmed TahYenj is a Dostum loyalist and represents Faryab in the Afghan parliament. He told Radio Free Afghanistan that Dostum was attacked after he was returning from a daylong trip to Faryab's Ghormach district from Qaysar, where he has been based for the past few days.

"He was ambushed by about 20 Taliban. They fired at the armored vehicle he was traveling in, but many of them were killed and the rest captured when our forces retaliated," he said. "The exchange of fire continued for up to 40 minutes."

He said the war-hardened leader's men fought back the Taliban, killing eight militants and capturing 13 more.

Dostum was not injured in the attack, nor were any of his guards.

TahYenj said the identity of the attackers could not be immediately established but most of the dead and captured militants appeared to be local Taliban fighters.

In an interview with RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan on August 19, Dostum claimed Afghan forces had scored a "great victory" by clearing Faryab during a 10-day operation.

"You don't have to ask me about our success here. Ask our soldiers, ask the locals here; they will explain it to you," he said. "We are victorious here; as you can see, we are only 200 meters away from the Taliban, and we are not shooting at them [because we expect them to surrender soon]."

Dostum, a former warlord, reportedly cut short medical treatment in Turkey to return to Afghanistan last month.

In an unexpected escalation, the Taliban launched a major offensive in the relatively stable province of northern Afghanistan. By seizing dozens of villages in Faryab last month, the insurgents threatened Dostum's political stronghold.

Most of his fellow Uzbeks live in Faryab and neighboring Jowzjan provinces. Despite opposition from some senior Afghan officials, Dostum traveled to the region to lead the anti-Taliban offensive.

Dostum has a controversial battlefield history. He was one of the star military commanders in the Afghan military fighting the Islamist mujahedin guerillas in the 1980s.

His militia was deployed in some of its toughest battles across the country during the decade-long conflict. After the fall of the communist regime in 1992, Dostum became a permanent fixture in the Afghan civil war, and his forces were accused of committing some of the worst abuses in the long internecine conflict.

At one point during the civil war in the 1990s, he controlled many northern provinces from his base in northern Balkh Province. He fled Afghanistan after the Taliban overran the region in the late 1990s.

Dostum still retains considerable influence in northern Afghanistan and has built a solid Uzbek vote bank.

as/fg

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