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Funeral Held For Afghan Vice President, Former Warlord Fahim

Afghan President Hamid Karzai (center) prays near the flag-draped coffin of Afghan Vice President Marshal Mohammad Qasim Fahim during his burial ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Kabul on March 11.
A funeral ceremony has been in the Afghan capital for Vice President Mohammad Qasim Fahim, who died of natural causes at the age of 57.

The ceremony for the former warlord started at the Defense Ministry compound, then moved to the presidential palace where government officials, foreign dignitaries, and diplomats paid their respects.

President Hamid Karzai praised Fahim's service to his country and called his death a great loss for the nation.

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Mourners laid Fahim's body to rest at a cemetery outside Kabul, where several thousand people had gathered.

Karzai was among those carrying Fahim's coffin to the grave.

Fahim, an ethnic Tajik, was a leading commander in the alliance that fought the Taliban and was formerly one of the country's most feared warlords.

His death came just weeks before Afghanistan conducts a presidential election on April 5 to choose a successor to Karzai, who has been the country's only head of state since the Taliban were ousted by a U.S.-led invasion in late 2001.

Fahim served as a vice president in 2002-04 -- under the initial Transitional Administration backed by the United Nations -- then assumed the post again following the last Afghan presidential election, in 2009.

With reporting by and Noor TV