Afghan tensions rise as protest in north turns violent

Afghans walk hundreds of kilometres for peace

The dispute has highlighted fragile security in Faryab, where Islamic State fighters have gained a foothold, battling militia commanders loosely affiliated with the government. Dostum, in exile in Turkey after accusations that he ordered a political opponent to be tortured and sexually assaulted, issued a statement calling for the release of Qaisari and warning that the province, on the border with Turkmenistan, could collapse in chaos.

The protest descended into violence when protesters tried to force their way into governor’s compound and security forces fired in the air to stop them, said Karim Yourish, spokesperson for the provincial police.

“We were trying to control the protesters and have a peaceful protest, but unfortunately it turned violent after security forces opened fire,” Rahmani said, adding that one member of the provincial council was among the injured.

The trouble underlines the important role that Dostum plays in politics despite the international outrage that prompted his departure from Afghanistan last year.

Since his exile, there have been regular reports that he will return to Afghanistan, where he commands loyalty among ethnic Uzbeks who make up a significant minority in the north of the country. With parliamentary elections due in October and presidential elections due early next year, there has been growing tension between powerful regional leaders, like Dostum, and Ghani’s Western-backed government in Kabul.

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