Page last updated at 13:25 GMT, Thursday, 4 December 2008

Body of Afghan leader identified

Mohammad Daud Khan
Mr Khan will be remembered as a reformer

The body of first Afghan President Mohammad Daud Khan has been identified three decades after he was killed in a Communist coup, officials say.

The discovery was made by members of a government-appointed commission during excavation at a military base outside the capital, Kabul.

Daud Khan overthrew the last king of Afghanistan, Zahir Shah, in 1973.

His death five years later ushered in a decade of Soviet occupation followed by the rise of the Taleban.

The former president is to be given a special funeral ceremony by the government.

Teeth moulds

A spokesman for the Ministry of Health told the Associated Press news agency that the former president's body was among dozens discovered at two mass graves in the Pul-e-Charkhi area, east of Kabul, six months ago.

The spokesman said that Mr Khan and 17 family members and associates were executed inside the presidential palace in Kabul during a communist-inspired coup in 1978.

He said that teeth moulds were used to identify the late president's body but the determining factor was a small golden Koran that was found with his remains.

"This Koran was given to him as a gift by the king of Saudi Arabia when he went on a trip to the kingdom," the spokesman said.

Correspondents say that many Afghans see Mr Khan's murder as one of their country's darkest days, because it was followed by 10 years of Soviet occupation, civil war and the rise of the Taleban, who themselves were toppled by US-led troops in 2001.

It is estimated that about two million people have been killed since the 1978 coup and more than six million have fled the country.

Mr Khan is remembered for his efforts to counter the influence of Islamists and for establishing a republic. He introduced wide ranging reforms and towards the end of his life favoured relations with the West over the Soviet Union.

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