Blast heard near Kabul airport after exiled VP Dostum returns

Exiled Afghan Vice President Dostum due to return home on Sunday

Dostum, who is linked to a catalogue of human rights abuses in Afghanistan, was mobbed like a celebrity as he left the chartered plane from Turkey where he has lived since May 2017.

At least 14 people were killed and 50 injured in a Daesh-claimed suicide bombing at Kabul airport as Afghanistan's first vice president, the leader of the country's Uzbek minority, returned home after more than a year of living in Turkey, a Kabul government official said Sunday.

Interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish said "The blast was probably caused by a suicide bomber".

Dostum landed in Kabul at 4.30 pm local time (5.30 pm Indian time), after which he was taken into an armoured vehicle, TOLONews reported.

Kabul police spokesman Hashmat Stanekzai said the blast went off near the main airport entrance, where supporters had been waiting to greet Dostum as his motorcade passed on its way to the city centre.

Mr 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.

Ghani in 2009 described Dostum as a "known killer".

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He denied Eshchi's accusations but amid global demands that he be held accountable, he left the country in May a year ago, ostensibly to seek medical treatment in Turkey and has not returned since.

Observers say President Ashraf Ghani, an ethnic Pashtun, gave the green light for Dostum to come home to stabilise the north and secure Uzbek support before next year's presidential election, which he is widely expected to contest.

It was not clear whether Dostum will face charges.

Mr Dostum's return followed more than two weeks of sometimes violent demonstrations by supporters demanding the release of one of his militia commanders who was arrested following a dispute with officers in the regular security forces.

During his time overseas, Dostum formed a loose coalition with Atta Mohammad Noor, the former governor of Balkh province with wide support among ethnic Tajiks as well as Mohammad Mohaqiq, a leader of the Hazara minority.

Once referred to as a "quintessential warlord" by the US State Department, Mr Dostum has always been accused of serious human rights abuses.

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