KABUL: For the second consecutive day, Afghan security forces on Wednesday clashed with protesters who stormed the compound of a governor as part of anti-government demonstrations over the arrest of a local commander loyal to exiled Vice President Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum.
At least one protester was killed and eight wounded by police fire as demonstrators tried to storm a key government building in Maimana, provincial capital of Faryab, part of Dostum’s main bastion, residents said.
The government confirmed the arrest on Monday of Nizamuddin Qaisari, a top commander for Dostum, over disobeying senior authorities in a meeting in Faryab, in an incident that involved casualties among Qaisari’s guards and security forces.
Qaisari has been brought to Kabul for investigation, said Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammad Radmanesh.
He confirmed the protests in Maimana, which began with small numbers on Tuesday but increased to thousands on Wednesday.
“We’ve had reports of demonstrations today (Wednesday) and also the clash, but I don’t have more details,” Radmanesh told Arab News.
An official from Maimana told Arab News on condition of anonymity that protesters had torched the governor’s building and several government vehicles.
Dostum, in a message from Turkey — where he has been living in exile for over a year — demanded Qaisari’s immediate release, warning that the government will face “serious challenges, including in the upcoming elections.”
An ethnic Uzbek, Dostum was sent to exile after allegations by a rival politician that Dostum’s guards arrested and sexually abused him.
Dostum has been involved in Afghanistan’s decades of conflict, and is known for frequently changing allegiances.
His forces are accused of grave human rights abuses, including the suffocation of several thousand Taliban prisoners after US-led forces overthrew the Taliban government in 2001.
The burly man supported President Ashraf Ghani in the 2014 elections, but repeatedly complained of being sidelined and accused Ghani of favoring his fellow ethnic Pashtuns.
The clashes in Maimana coincide with deepening rifts within the Ghani administration, coupled with a hike in attacks by the Taliban and Daesh in recent months.
Amrullah Saleh, former chief of Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, said the protests will further weaken Ghani’s embattled government.