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Afghan Vice President’s Return Is Thwarted as Plane Is Turned Back

On Tuesday morning, however, the offices of both Mr. Dostum and Mr. Noor issued statements denying that the incident had occurred. Mr. Noor’s office said the plane had been carrying Turkish “special guests” of the governor, not the vice president, and that because of technical difficulties it had landed in Turkmenistan before entering Afghan airspace.

A senior government official, however, said officials in Kabul had become suspicious of the small plane, which was said to be carrying seven businessmen. The authorities asked the plane to land in Kabul for processing before going to Mazar-i-Sharif, and its reluctance to comply confirmed the suspicion that Mr. Dostum was aboard, said the official.

Asif Mohmand, another member of the provincial council in Balkh, who was not at the airport but spoke to people who had been there, said that NATO forces in Mazar-i-Sharif had denied the plane permission to land after consulting with the central government.

“The foreigners said, ‘It’s impossible — you should get in touch with Kabul, once they O.K. it, we will welcome him.’ But the central government asked the plane to land in Kabul and not Mazar, then after much commotion Mr. Dostum landed in Turkmenistan.”

A Western official said Mr. Noor, while waiting at the airport and trying to calm the crowd, had called the commander of the coalition forces in the north seeking permission for Mr. Dostum to land. The governor was told that the decision was up to the central government, not the coalition forces, the official said.

Mr. Dostum has been in conflict with his own government for months, most recently over a criminal investigation into accusations that he and his bodyguards kidnapped and sexually assaulted a political rival. Even before those allegations, there had been friction as the general lashed out at Mr. Ghani, accusing him of monopolizing power.

Mr. Dostum’s new political alliance, which was announced last month in Ankara, has a strong base in Afghanistan’s north. Two other members of the coalition, Mr. Noor and Hajji Mohammad Mohaqiq, the deputy chief executive of the Afghan government, have made Mazar-i-Sharif a base for venting their anger at Mr. Ghani. The central government appears to have feared that Mr. Dostum was returning to Afghanistan to consolidate that coalition.

Source: NYT > World

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