Afghan vice president narrowly escapes Taliban attack

Taliban claims responsibility for attack on Abdul Rashid Dostum’s convoy which killed one of his bodyguards.

Afghan Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum arrives at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul
Afghan Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum has escaped death for the second time since returning from exile last year [Omar Sobhani/Reuters]

Afghanistan’s Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum has escaped unhurt after a Taliban attack that killed one of his bodyguards, according to officials.

Attackers ambushed Dostum’s convoy on Saturday on the way from Mazar-i-Sharif, a city in Balkh province, to Jawzjan province in northern Afghanistan, said Bashir Ahmad Tayenj, a spokesman for Dostum’s Junbish Party.

Dostum was aware of a planned attack but decided to travel anyway, the spokesman added.

Two of his bodyguards were wounded.

Dostum had held a rally in Balkh earlier in the day as he had joined the election team of Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, one of several contenders in the presidential election scheduled for September 28.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the assassination attempt. In a tweet, Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman of the group, said four guards were killed and six wounded in the attack.

Second attempt

The assault came eight months after Dostum avoided injury in a suicide bombing at Kabul airport that killed 23 people.

That attack, which was claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS), took place as Dostum returned home from more than a year in exile in Turkey over allegations of torturing and abusing a political rival.

Dostum had left Afghanistan after heavy pressure from Western donors, including the United States.

Less than a year since his return, he remains a significant, if polarising, political figure.

A powerful ethnic Uzbek leader, Dostum is notorious in Afghanistan for extreme barbarities and for repeatedly switching loyalties over 40 years of conflict.

Despite a catalogue of war crimes attached to his name and accusations of organising the rape and torture of a political rival, Dostum became Afghanistan’s first vice president in 2014.

At the rally in Balkh, Dostum had claimed he could clear northern Afghanistan of the Taliban within six months – if only the government would let him.

Source: Al Jazeera