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Afghan Soccer Official, Charged With Sexual Abuse, Evades Arrest

2020-08-24 13:18:04
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KABUL, Afghanistan — The powerful former chairman of Afghanistan’s soccer federation, who faces criminal charges of sexual abuse of female players, eluded capture by Afghan Special Operations officers on Sunday, laying bare the tenuous reach of the national government.

The unsuccessful police operation against the fugitive, Keramuddin Keram, took place in Panjshir Province, a predominantly ethnic Tajik area that has long supported and protected Mr. Keram. He established himself there as an insurgent commander during the war against the Soviets in the 1980s.

Officials in the province said that they had not been consulted before the attempted arrest, and that Mr. Keram was not home when the Afghan forces arrived.

“For this operation, no coordination was made with the governor office, security forces and judicial organization in the province,” said Mohammad Amin Sediqi, the acting governor of Panjshir.

Afghanistan has long tried to balance regional autonomy with the power of the central government, often to varying degrees of success.

In a July address, President Ashraf Ghani called on the people of Panjshir — as well as on Abdullah Abdullah, who is the head of the council that aims to negotiate peace with the Taliban and has political allies in the region — to “expel” Mr. Keram from the province and “enforce the rule of law.”

“I will suspend and help prosecute any official engaged in corruption or abuse of authority, no matter where or at what location,” Mr. Ghani said.

Mohammad Kalan, a resident of Panjshir Province, said that Mr. Keram was protected by his own tribe and well-armed militia, adding that high-ranking government officials in Panjshir all supported him.

“The government is weak, and corrupt people run it,” Mr. Kalan said. “That is why criminals do whatever they want. The government promoted the guy, and now they have to deal with him.”

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