Soviet war veteran found in Afghanistan after 33 years

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Bakhretdin Khakimov (pic courtesy of veterans' committee)
Image caption,
Bakhretdin Khakimov is now known as Sheikh Abdullah (pic courtesy of veterans' committee)

A Soviet soldier who went missing in Afghanistan nearly 33 years ago has been found living with Afghans in the western province of Herat.

The soldier is semi-nomadic, has the adopted Afghan name Sheikh Abdullah and practises herbal medicine, Russia's RIA news agency reports.

An ethnic Uzbek, he was found by ex-Soviet veterans of the war.

He was wounded in battle in 1980, only months after the Soviet invasion, and was rescued by local Afghans.

The head of the official veterans' committee, Ruslan Aushev, said Sheikh Abdullah - real name Bakhretdin Khakimov - was tracked down in Shindand district after a year-long search. He had served with a motorised rifle unit.

The committee lists 264 Soviet soldiers as still missing in Afghanistan, half of them Russians. In the first decade after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989 the committee found 29 missing soldiers - and 22 of them decided to return home, while seven opted to stay in Afghanistan, RIA reports.

The committee says it is determined to track all of the missing men down.

Sheikh Abdullah was married but his wife died and he has no children.

Image caption,
Bakhretdin Khakimov disappeared in 1980 (pic courtesy of veterans' committee)

The committee's deputy chairman, Alexander Lavrentyev, said Sheikh Abdullah bore the scars of his war wounds - a shaking hand and shoulder and nervous tic. The ex-soldier, from the city of Samarkand, was able to name his former place of residence in Uzbekistan and the names of his relatives, Mr Lavrentyev said.

He understood Russian but spoke it very poorly.

In 2009 the BBC's Lyse Doucet interviewed two ex-soldiers from Ukraine, now Muslims and living with Afghans in northern Afghanistan.

Some 15,000 Red Army soldiers and more than a million Afghans were killed in a decade of fighting between a Soviet-backed government in Kabul and mujahideen fighters armed by the West and Islamic neighbours.