Reuters, May 28, 2007
Thirteen killed in Afghan protest - witnesses
Dostum, an ethnic Uzbek and a former communist, has been involved in a series of coups and regime changes in nearly three decades
By Tahir Qadiry
MAZAR-I-SHARIF - Thirteen people were killed and 35 wounded in Afghanistan on Monday when police opened fire to break up a violent protest against a provincial governor, witnesses said.
More than 1,000 people were protesting to demand the removal of Juma Khan Hamdard, governor of the northern province of Jowzjan, and were throwing stones at several government offices in Shiberghan, the provincial capital, witnesses said.
Police fired to stop the protesters from raiding the offices, the witnesses said. A provincial government spokesman said the protesters were supporters of General Abdul Rashid Dostum, for years a powerful military commander in the Afghan north.
"We've got 13 dead and 35 wounded," said Naqibullah, a doctor at Shiberghan's main hospital, adding some of the wounded were in critical condition. Four police were also wounded, but it was not clear how, witnesses said.
Provincial spokesman Rohullah Samun, confirmed the casualties but said they were caused by the protesters. He said police fired into the air to disperse the protesters.
He said the protesters had staged an "uprising against the provincial government" and wanted to bring down the government flag and install that of Dostum's faction.
"They were militias of Dostum," he said.
Dostum, an ethnic Uzbek and a former communist, has been involved in a series of coups and regime changes in nearly three decades of Afghanistan's conflict.
He considered northern areas as his fiefdom, but his powers have been reduced to a large extent in recent years, though he still is officially a military aide to President Hamid Karzai.
A pro-federalist, Dostum has been accused in the past by several provincial officials in the north of bullying them.
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