Exiled VP Dostum Returns to Afghanistan, Greeted by Bomb Blast at Kabul Airport That Kills 14
Afghanistan's 1st Vice-President Abdul Rashid Dostum (l) (Photo: ariananews)

Afghanistan’s Vice-President Abdul Rashid Dostum returned to Kabul from self-imposed exile today however within an hour of his landing at the airport a suicide bomber on foot set off his explosives outside the gate of the airport.

Fourteen people have died in the blast of which nine have been identified as security force members and traffic officers. Dostum was unhurt in the attack. The Islamic States of Iraq and Syria's (ISIS) local affiliate claimed responsibility for the attack on its Amaaq News Agency website.

In a statement from the presidential palace, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani strongly condemned the attack. Observers say President Ashraf Ghani gave the green light for Dostum to come back to Afghanistan to quell the unrest and 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, demanding the release of a pro-government militia leader and calling for Dostum's return.

Dostum left Afghanistan in May 2017 after he was accused of organising the rape and torture of a political rival. The powerful ethnic Uzbek leader and former warlord, is also linked to a catalogue of human rights abuses in Afghanistan after he helped the U.S. forces oust the Taliban government in 2001.

Ghani, an ethnic Pashtun, described Dostum as a "known killer" in 2009. Yet he chose the ethnic Uzbek to be his running mate in the 2014 presidential election, underlining the ethnic realities of Afghan politics.

It was not immediately clear whether Dostum will now face any charges. "The judiciary in Afghanistan is an independent body and will carry out its duties and responsibilities as it deems appropriate," said an official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment on the issue.

Dostum's return from exile comes ahead of the 2019 presidential election that Ghani, who is deeply unpopular among non-Pashtuns, is widely expected to contest.

Dostum had continued to deny all allegations and said his departure was for medical check-ups and family reasons.