Former warlord backs Abdullah in Afghan vote

June 04, 2014 - 12:00:00 am

KABUL: A former Afghan warlord with previous links to Al Qaeda yesterday became the latest high-profile politician to endorse presidential front-runner Abdullah Abdullah ahead of the June 14 run-off vote.

Abdul Rab Rassoul Sayyaf, who fought the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s and formed a close relationship with Osama Bin Laden, came fourth in the first round of voting on April 5.

His endorsement will likely bring Abdullah additional support from Pashtuns, Afghanistan's largest ethnic group.

Abdullah fell short of the 50 percent threshold needed for an outright victory in the April first round and will face former World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani in the run-off.

The former foreign minister has already received endorsements from third-placed Zalmai Rassoul and sixth-placed Gul Agha Sherzai, also Pashtuns.

"We have come together with our brothers who have the same mentality and background under the leadership of the Professor Sayyaf, to support our knowledgeable brother Dr Abdullah to save this country," Ismail Khan, a vice-presidential running mate of Sayyaf, told a gathering in Kabul.

Despite being a former anti-Soviet resistance fighter, Abdullah is viewed with suspicion by many Pashtuns because he was a part of the Northern Alliance which opposed the Taliban during their 1996-2001 rule.

The militant group have threatened to disrupt the run-off election, warning voters to stay away from polling stations for fear of injury or death.                           AFP