An explosion has killed or wounded at least 10 people near Kabul’s international airport shortly after Afghan Vice President Rashid Dostum returned to the country after more than a year in exile, officials have said.
Kabul police spokesman Hashmat Stanekzai said the blast on Sunday 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.
“The number of casualties may rise. The blast happened right after Dostum’s convoy left the airport,” he said.
Without giving a breakdown, interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish, said civilians including a child and security force members were among the casualties.
But Dostum, who was travelling in an armoured vehicle, was unharmed, said his spokesman Bashir Ahmad Tayanj.
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.
His 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 to demand the release of a pro-government militia leader and call for Dostum’s return.
Expectations of the return did little to quell the unrest, with protesters vowing Sunday to continue demonstrating until the leader of the Uzbek ethnic minority tells them otherwise.
“We don’t trust the government. We will continue our protests unless General Dostum tells us to stop,” Ehsanullah Qowanch, a protest leader in Faryab province, told AFP.
Another protester, Massoud Khan, said: “We have been on the streets for 20 days now. We are not going to stop our protests unless our demands are met.”
SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies