Reuters International

Afghan General Abdul Rashid Dostum speaks during an interview with Reuters at his palace in Shiberghan in northern Afghanistan August 19, 2009. REUTERS/Caren Firouz

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KABUL (Reuters) - Bodyguards of Afghan Vice President Rashid Dostum who are wanted over allegations of torture and abuse of one of their boss's political rivals have turned themselves in to authorities after weeks of refusing to cooperate, officials said on Wednesday.

The move comes after days of rising tensions within President Ashraf Ghani's fragile national unit government. Armed troops blocked streets around Dostum's Kabul residence to try to force him to hand the men over.

Interior ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said that seven bodyguards were being questioned by officials of the attorney general's office.

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. He has denied the accusations.

Ishchi says he was subjected to days of severe beatings and sexual abuse, prompting demands from Western allies of the government for an investigation and trial.

The case has caused severe embarrassment to Ghani, who has faced heavy pressure from Western allies to act against his volatile vice president.

However Dostum's powerful standing within the Uzbek community has made it difficult to replace him in a government that must try to keep a balance between the major ethnic groups in Afghanistan.

(Reporting by Hamid ShaliziEditing by Jeremy Gaunt.)

Reuters

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