Bodyguards of Afghan Vice President Rashid Dostum who are wanted over allegations of torture and abuse have been questioned by the authorities after weeks of refusing to cooperate, officials say.
Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said on February 22 that seven bodyguards were being questioned by officials of the Attorney General's Office. It wasn't immediately clear if the seven bodyguards were willingly cooperating with the authorities.
Dostum, a powerful ethnic Uzbek warlord with decades of experience in Afghanistan's turbulent politics, faces accusations that he ordered members of his personal militia to seize and detain Ahmad Ishchi, a former ally. Dostum has denied the accusations.
Ishchi says he was severely beaten and sexually abused for days, prompting demands from Western allies of the government for an investigation and trial.
The case has caused embarrassment to President Ashraf Ghani, who has faced heavy pressure from Western allies to act against his unruly vice president.
Dostum's powerful position within Afghanistan's Uzbek community has made it difficult to replace him.
The bodyguards' questioning comes after days of rising tensions within Ghani's fragile national-unity government. Armed troops blocked the streets around Dostum's Kabul residence, apparently to try to force him to hand the men over.
However, Dostum's chief of staff Babur Farhamand said it was not clear why security forces had been stationed around the vice president's heavily fortified residence.