Blast hits Kabul airport on return of exiled Afghan vice president

July 22, 2018

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

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

He was unharmed in the blast, which was claimed by Islamic State, and made only brief mention of it when he met cheering supporters who had been waiting for hours to give him a red carpet reception at a rally at his office compound.

However, the incident underlined the increasingly volatile and unstable political climate in Kabul ahead of parliamentary elections in October that are seen as a dry run for more important presidential elections early next year.

Dostum backed calls for peace talks with the Taliban and thanked Afghanistan’s international partners for their help while calling on Afghans to register for the elections.

“Any fraud in this election will lead the country to a serious and dangerous crisis,” he said.

Dostum’s triumphant return was in stark contrast to the outrage he faced after reports in 2016 that his guards had seized political rival Ahmad Eshchi and subjected him to beatings, torture and violent sexual abuse.

He denied Eshchi’s accusations but, amid international demands that he face justice to show that powerful political leaders were not above the law, he left the country in May last year, saying he needed to seek medical treatment in Turkey. News Desk