[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Languages
Last Updated: Thursday, 20 January, 2005, 17:00 GMT
Warlord survives Taleban attack
Smoke billows after the blast outside the mosque
Smoke billows after the blast outside the mosque
Afghan warlord General Abdul Rashid Dostum has survived an assassination attempt by a suicide bomber.

He was not hurt when the attacker blew himself up outside a mosque in the northern town of Sheberghan where the general had been praying.

About 20 others were wounded. The Taleban said it carried out the attack to avenge the killing of its members.

General Dostum is a controversial figure who ran for president last year and helped oust the Taleban in 2001.

QUICK GUIDE

His fighters are accused of leaving hundreds of Taleban fighters to perish inside sealed steel containers after their defeat and capture.

General Dostum still holds Taleban fighters in a private prison at Sheberghan. He is also accused of torture and brutality towards the Pashtun majority when he was a commander in the Soviet-backed Afghan army.

The Taleban said one of its fighters had carried out the attack.

"We have planned attacks against our enemies in Afghanistan. Dostum was involved in the killing of Taleban," a spokesman, Latifullah Hakimi, told Reuters by telephone.

'Beggar'

Thursday's early morning bombing came as General Dostum chatted with well-wishers after prayers at the mosque to mark the Muslim festival of Eid.

Eyewitnesses said a man dressed as a beggar ran towards the general.

General Dostum campaigning
Dostum was just heading towards his car when it went off and he was unhurt
Ehsanullah
Dostum aide

But a security guard kicked him, and the man fell two or three metres from General Dostum.

"When the bodyguards stopped him from getting any closer, he blew himself up," one security guard told the Associated Press.

Bodyguards and bystanders took the force of the explosion. The authorities say six people are critically injured.

Reports say General Dostum's brother received minor injuries.

"The suicide bomber is a Pashtun and had a mobile phone. No-one has been arrested in this connection so far," a policeman at the scene said.

Resistance veteran

General Dostum has a substantial private army, which is now being disarmed and demobilised.

A veteran of the war against Soviet troops, he was also part of the force which ousted the Taleban under American command in 2001.

Observers say he has displayed an uncanny ability to switch sides and stay on the right side of those in power during his career.

The BBC's Paul Anderson says the Taleban have plenty to hold against the warlord - although it is not clear if they had any role in Thursday's attack.

The ethnic Uzbek commander is also locked in a bitter rivalry with another northern warlord, Atta Mohammad.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Assassination attempt caught on camera



RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific