Politics, World, Asia - pacific

Former Afghan President Sibghatullah Mujaddedi dies

Large gathering of officials and devotees expected to attend his funeral

Former Afghan President Sibghatullah Mujaddedi dies

By Shadi Khan Saif

KABUL, Afghanistan

Spiritual leader and former president Sibghatullah Mujaddedi died on Tuesday at the age of 93, his family said.

The veteran leader was widely respected by the Afghans for his roots to the Naqshbandi Sufi order as well as resistance to the former Soviet Union even years before the Red Army invaded Afghanistan in the late 1970s.

As a graduate of al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt in Islamic Law and Jurisprudence, young Mujaddedi joined the faculty at Kabul University in the 1950s, but was soon criticized, imprisoned and later forced to flee to Denmark due to his opposition to growing Soviet influence in Afghanistan. He became the ceremonial interim president of the country in 1992 after the withdrawal of Soviet troops and the fall of the Communist regime in Kabul led by Najibullah Ahmadzai.

He went into exile in Pakistan when the country plunged into civil war and the Taliban grabbed power in Kabul. Mujaddedi returned to Kabul in 2001 and served at various positions under the U.S. backed government.

He narrowly escaped a suicide attempt on his life in 2006.

A large gathering of officials and devotees is expected to attend his funeral in Kabul on Tuesday.

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