Afghanistan orders arrest of vice-president's guards in abuse case

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Afghanistan's attorney general has ordered the arrest of nine bodyguards of Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum for sexually abusing and torturing a rival, an official said Tuesday.

Dostum, a former warlord who has a catalogue of war crimes to his name, has been accused of abducting Ahmad Ishchi in November last year during a traditional game of Buzkashi, or polo using an animal carcass, in the northern province of Jowzjan.

Dostum allegedly kept Ishchi hostage in his private compound for five days, where he was said to have been tortured and sodomised.

The country's attorney general launched an investigation into the allegations after local media said Ishchi underwent a medical examination at the US air base at Bagram north of Kabul to confirm the abuse.

"The investigating team has issued an arrest warrant against nine of Mr Dostum's bodyguards who were involved in the case," Jamshid Rasuli, the spokesman for the attorney general's office, told AFP.

"The team has also asked Mr Dostum to either respond to the queries himself or through his legal channels. But he has not responded yet," he said.

Dostum was not immediately available for comment but has previously denied the allegations, proposing to resolve the matter by the traditional mediation of tribal elders rather than through conventional courts.

The controversy has once again drawn attention to how Afghan warlords and strongmen operate with impunity, hobbling Western-backed efforts to restore peace and rebuild the nation after decades of conflict.

Observers have been sceptical the government will sack or bring charges against Dostum, who has survived all previous allegations of abuse.

Despite his human rights record, Dostum was invited to join the National Unity Government in 2014 in an attempt by President Ashraf Ghani to attract the support of his mostly ethnic Uzbek constituency.