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Murdered Afghan president laid to rest

world Updated: Mar 17, 2009 17:05 IST
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The remains of Afghanistan's assassinated president Mohammad Daud Khan, found last year after being missing since he was killed in a 1978 coup, were reburied on Tuesday after a state ceremony.

Khan's family used the occasion to call on parties in Afghanistan's conflict to observe a one-week ceasefire in respect for the tens of thousands of people killed in decades of war, ignited by his assassination.

The president, who also took power in a coup, was gunned down in his palace along with 17 relatives including his wife, siblings, children and grandchildren in a Soviet-backed uprising in April 1978.

Afghanistan's political elite, led by President Hamid Karzai, paid their respects to the former leader at a ceremony at the same palace, attended by about 1,000 people, including cabinet ministers and military generals.

They filed past his coffin and that of his brother Mohammad Naeem Khan, and then greeted members of Khan's family, some of whom came to Kabul from abroad for the service, an AFP reporter said.

Flags were flown at half-mast across the capital to mark the day.

The coffins were later flown by military helicopter to a hill southwest of the capital where the remains of 15 other relatives killed in the same coup were buried on Monday.

The body of the 18th victim, one of Khan's daughters, has yet to be found.

At the hill, which is expected to be named after the slain leader, a nephew of the former president called for a halt to the conflict in the country, in which insurgents led by the Taliban are pitted against Afghan and international security forces.

"Our family's call to the people of Afghanistan and all sides involved in war is for a one-week ceasefire across the country to mark the martyrdom of all those who lost their lives for the freedom of this country," Nadir Naeem told reporters.

The Taliban, who were routed from government in the 2001 US-led invasion, had pledged not to attack the ceremonies.

In their search for Khan and his murdered relatives, authorities opened 93 graves based on public tip-offs and claims, officials said.

The ex-president's remains were identified last year -- including through his artificial teeth -- after being found with those of his relatives in two mass graves in a military training ground on the outskirts of Kabul.

One of the grandchildren killed with him was aged only 18 months.

The assassination, when Khan was 68 years old, kicked off three decades of war. It was followed by a Soviet invasion that resulted in a bitter resistance struggle that later spawned civil war and Taliban rule.

After the extremist Islamic Taliban were removed, Karzai was installed with substantial Western backing, although stability has remained elusive.

Afghanistan has a turbulent political history marked by coups and war, with several of its leaders killed while in office.

Khan himself took power in a coup, toppling the late king Zahir Shah, his cousin, in 1973, to end the monarchy and establish the nation's first republic.