Afghan Vice President Survives Attack on Convoy
KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban ambushed a convoy escorting the vice president of Afghanistan, killing at least one of his bodyguards, Afghan officials said Sunday. The vice president, Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, survived.
General Dostum, the leader of the Uzbek ethnic minority in Afghanistan and a bitter foe of the Taliban, had just returned to Mazar-i-Sharif, the capital of Balkh Province in northern Afghanistan, after a personal trip to Uzbekistan. On Saturday evening, he was traveling to his home province of Jowzjan when his convoy came under attack for about an hour in the village of Timorak, in Balkh.
The convoy pressed on to Jowzjan Province, where it was again ambushed by the insurgents, according to Amanuddin, head of the local police in Timorak.
Mr. Amanuddin, who like many Afghans uses only one name, said the attackers had destroyed one of General Dostum’s vehicles and killed three of his bodyguards. “Their guys lied about the casualties to the media,” he said, referring to early reports that no one had been killed.
Munir Ahmad Farhad, the spokesman for the governor of Balkh Province, confirmed that the two ambushes had taken place, but said that only one bodyguard had been killed and two others wounded.
Kanishka Turkistani, an aide to General Dostum, also said that a single bodyguard had been killed and two wounded. He said the general’s convoy had actually been ambushed three times and that his guards had captured two insurgents and wounded or killed 10 others.
A Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying the insurgents had killed four bodyguards but that none of their fighters had been hurt.
General Dostum, a protégé and longtime favorite of the Central Intelligence Agency, has survived at least two other attacks by the Taliban, who blame him — as do international observers — for the deaths of thousands of Taliban prisoners, many of whom suffocated in truck containers after surrendering to his forces.
In 2014, Ashraf Ghani, who was then running for president, added General Dostum to his ticket as a candidate for one of the country’s two vice-presidential posts, despite having earlier described him as a “known killer.”
Two years later, General Dostum was accused, along with nine of his top security officials and bodyguards, of kidnapping, torturing and raping a political rival, Ahmad Ishchi, who was then in his early 60s. General Dostum left for exile in Turkey, claiming medical issues, but remained vice president when he returned last year.
Despite the criminal charges against them, General Dostum and his more senior security aides have yet to be prosecuted on the rape charges. Seven of his low-level bodyguards were convicted and sentenced to five years in prison in the same case, although they were never arrested or imprisoned, and were even seen on television in the general’s heavily armed entourage.
[General Dostum has been accused of numerous crimes, including rape, kidnapping and the murder of his first wife.]
While apparently immune from prosecution, General Dostum was sidelined from his vice-presidential duties, and has announced that he will be supporting Mr. Ghani’s rival, Abdullah Abdullah, in this year’s presidential race, if it takes place.
When he arrived on Saturday in Mazar-i-Sharif, where there is a large Uzbek minority, General Dostum addressed a crowd of his supporters. He predicted that he would be ambushed by the Taliban when he returned that night to Jowzjan, which is exactly what happened.
“I have been informed that we face an ambush,” he said. “Listen to me: It is not good to stone a wasp’s nest.”
General Dostum also criticized the peace process and boasted that he could quickly defeat the Taliban in the north with the help of his own armed followers if the government would let him. He recalled how in 2001 he and his men went into battle against the Taliban on horseback, supported by the C.I.A. His more recent attempts to battle the Taliban using private militias have had little success.