Thu, Mar 07, 2013 - Page 6 News List

Missing Soviet veteran found living as healer

Reuters, MOSCOW

A Soviet war veteran reported missing in action in Afghanistan 33 years ago has been found living as a local healer in the province of Herat, news agency Ria reported.

The soldier, who was rescued by Afghans after being wounded in the first months after the Soviet Union’s invasion in 1979, was tracked down by a Moscow-based group of war veterans.

A native of the former Soviet state of Uzbekistan, he now goes by the name of Sheikh Abdullah and has adopted the local dress and profession of the healer who nursed him back to health.

The deputy head of the Afghan war veterans’ committee said Abdullah, whose given name is Bakhretdin Khakimov, had mostly forgotten the Russian language and never tried to contact his relatives after suffering severe head trauma.

Alexander Lavrentyev, who met with Abdullah in Herat last month, said the veteran, who was 20 when he went missing, still bore the scars of his injury: a nervous tic and a shaking hand and shoulder.

“He was just happy he survived,” Lavrentyev was quoted by Ria as saying at a press conference in Moscow on Monday.

The committee says it has found 29 of 264 soldiers still listed as missing from the decade-long conflict. It said seven of those it contacted chose to stay in Afghanistan.

About 15,000 Soviet troops were killed in the Soviet Union’s incursion to support a communist vassal government in Kabul.

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