Afghan VP Dostum to return after more than a year in exile

Dostum (left) left Afghanistan in May 2017 after he was accused of organizing the rape and torture of a political rival. (File Photo: AFP)
Updated 22 July 2018
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Afghan VP Dostum to return after more than a year in exile

  • The powerful ethnic Uzbek leader and former warlord is linked to a catalogue of human rights abuses in Afghanistan
  • Dostum’s return comes amid violent protests in several provinces across northern Afghanistan

KABUL: Afghan Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum is expected to return to Kabul Sunday, more than a year after fleeing the country during an investigation into the rape and torture of a political rival.
The powerful ethnic Uzbek leader and former warlord, who is linked to a catalogue of human rights abuses in Afghanistan, will fly from Turkey to Kabul where he will be welcomed by high-ranking officials at a special ceremony, Afghan officials said.
“At 4:00 p.m. (1130 GMT) today General Dostum’s flight will land at Kabul international airport,” Jamal Nasir Farahmand, a spokesman for Dostum, told AFP.
Dostum’s return, which has been the subject of much speculation, comes amid violent protests in several provinces across northern Afghanistan — his traditional power base.
Thousands of Dostum’s supporters have taken to the streets in recent weeks, shuttering election and government offices and blocking sections of highways, demanding the release of a pro-government militia leader and calling for Dostum’s return.
Observers say President Ashraf Ghani gave the green light for Dostum to come back to Afghanistan to quell the unrest.
Dostum left Afghanistan in May 2017 after he was accused of organizing the rape and torture of a political rival.
He had denied the allegations and said his departure was for medical check-ups and family reasons.
Ghani, an ethnic Pashtun, described Dostum as a “known killer” in 2009. Yet he chose the ethnic Uzbek to be his running mate in the 2014 presidential election, underlining the ethnic realities of Afghan politics.
Dostum’s return from exile comes ahead of the 2019 presidential election that Ghani, who is deeply unpopular among non-Pashtuns, is widely expected to contest.
Presidential spokesman Haroon Chakhansuri said Saturday that Dostum had been “treated” and would resume his duties upon his return.
Seven of Dostum’s bodyguards have been convicted of the sexual assault and illegal imprisonment of Ahmad Ishchi, a former governor of northern Jowzjan province, in 2016.
Dostum allegedly had Ishchi abducted in Jowzjan and then kept him hostage in his private compound for several days, where the captive was said to have been tortured and sodomised.
Chakhansuri deflected questions about whether Dostum would face charges over the incident, saying “the judiciary is an independent body, the government does not interfere in their decisions.”
Dostum is one of several controversial figures that Kabul has sought to reintegrate into mainstream politics since the US-led invasion in 2001.
His heroic status in the north belies the extreme barbarities he is known for.
Dostum, who helped the United States oust the Taliban regime in 2001, allegedly allowed hundreds of Taliban prisoners to be suffocated to death in shipping containers.


Spanish police find no weapons in knife attacker’s home

Special police forces prepare to raid the apartment building of a man who attacked a police station in Cornella near Barcelona on Monday. (AFP)
Updated 22 August 2018
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Spanish police find no weapons in knife attacker’s home

MADRID: Police have not found any guns or explosives in the house of a man who allegedly attacked police officers with a knife in Barcelona before being shot dead, a senior official in Spain’s Catalonia region said Tuesday.
Authorities are investigating whether the suspect in Monday’s attack at the police station on the outskirts of Barcelona had links to terror groups, Catalan Interior Minister Miquel Buch said.
He told Catalan public radio that “as things stand” terrorism can’t be ruled out as a motive for the attack. Officials have not identified the dead suspect.
The investigation by police and intelligence services could last weeks, and the motive may not emerge until it’s concluded, Buch said in Catalan, according to Spanish news agency Europa Press.
Police were analyzing evidence collected during the house search.
Catalan police chief Andreu Joan Martinez said Tuesday the policewoman who shot the alleged attacker acted in a “proportionate, adequate” way, considering the “extremely serious situation” she faced.
The policewoman was the first person the attacker approached with a knife after gaining entry to the police station before dawn.
Martinez praised the policewoman and the sergeant near her for their quick response to the threat.
“That explains why today we’re not speaking about greater loss of life,” Martinez told a news conference in Barcelona.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Catalan police force’s largest labor group, Valentin Anadon, said in an interview with Europa Press that the policewoman told the attacker “about 10 times” to put down his knife before she opened fire.
Police haven’t released any video footage from inside the police station during the attack.