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Afghan Officials: VP Escapes Taliban Ambush

FILE - Afghanistan's Vice President General Abdul Rashid Dostum.
FILE - Afghanistan's Vice President General Abdul Rashid Dostum.

Afghan officials say Taliban insurgents ambushed the convoy of Vice President General Abdul Rashid Dostum Friday afternoon but that he escaped the attack unharmed.

Provincial police chief Sayed Masood Yaqubi told VOA that Dostum was traveling through the remote Qaysar district in northern Faryab province when his convoy was attacked.

Dostum's spokesman, Sultan Faizy, said the general's men returned fire, killing eight attackers. Another 13 were arrested.

Yaqubi said one of the dead insurgents was of Uzbek nationality.

Dostum is a former warlord with a strong following among Afghanistan's Uzbek ethnic minority. He has been fighting the Taliban in his northern stronghold in recent weeks.

Afghan authorities say Taliban insurgents have linked up with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan to strengthen their campaign across the previously peaceful province.

The Taliban has not commented on the reported attack.

Dostum was visiting areas of Faryab province that have reportedly been recently cleared of Taliban forces, according to Kabul's Aina Television.

He was attempting to help win the support of Pashtun residents in volatile Ghormach district after having traveled through areas that had been major Taliban sanctuaries until Thursday, the TV reported.

Aina TV said Dostum, wearing a bullet proof vest, was shown speaking in Uzbek to large crowds, saying the Taliban would no longer be allowed to return to their areas and that schools for girls and boys would be reopened soon.

Dostum was later shown at a meeting with army and air force officers, police and intelligence officials in Qaysar District on Wednesday alleging there was evidence of Pakistan's direct involvement in some battles in northern Afghanistan.

Dostum told the senior security officials that he called on the Taliban during his visit to Ghormach to surrender and join the peace process. He was quoted as telling the meeting that over 1,000 Taliban militants in Ghormach have shown readiness to join the peace process.

Nader Nadery, who directs a research organization in Kabul, says the ongoing escalation of Taliban attacks is possibly intended as a show of strength by newly appointed leader Mullah Mohammad Akhtar Mansour who replaced Mullah Mohammed Omar following the announcement of his death last month.