Page last updated at 09:52 GMT, Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Remains of Afghan leader buried

Afghan army officers carry a portrait of former president Mohammad Daud Khan during his funeral in Kabul on March 17, 2009
Daud Khan's death ushered in years of war

The remains of former Afghan president, Mohammad Daud Khan, have been buried in a state funeral in Kabul more than 30 years after he was killed in a coup.

Flags flew at half mast as the political elite joined family members and supporters to pay their respects at a ceremony at the presidential palace.

Mr Khan was killed in a communist-inspired coup in 1978. His remains were found in a mass grave last year.

He ousted his cousin, King Zahir Shah, in a coup in 1973 to become president.

Afghan army officers carried a portrait of Mr Khan at the funeral ceremony, which was attended by President Hamid Karzai, along with government officials, family members and supporters.

Artillery guns were fired and Afghanistan's national anthem was played.

As a mark of respect, a spokesman for the Taleban had said the militants would not carry out any operations in the area while the ceremony was taking place.

Mr Khan's body was discovered by members of a government-appointed commission during excavation at a military base outside Kabul last summer.

Dental records

His body was among dozens discovered at two mass graves in the Pul-e-Charkhi area, east of Kabul.

The remains of at least 16 other members of his family were also discovered.

Officials said Mr Khan and his relatives were executed inside the presidential palace in Kabul during the communist-inspired coup in 1978.

They 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," a spokesman for the Ministry of Health told the Associated Press news agency in December.

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.

A former prime minister, Mr Daud became president in 1973, after deposing King Zahir Shah in a virtually bloodless coup.

Correspondents say 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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