Missing Soviet war veteran lives as healer in Afghanistan

MOSCOW (REUTERS) - A Soviet war veteran reported missing in action during fighting in Afghanistan 33 years ago has been found living as a local healer in the province of Heart, 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 Central Asian 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, mostly had forgotten the Russian language and never tried to contact his relatives after suffering severe head trauma in the fighting.

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. His face is creased by a nervous tic and his hand and shoulder shake.

"He was just happy he survived," Lavrentyev was quoted by Ria as saying at a presser in Moscow on Monday.

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

Some 15,000 Soviet troops were killed in the fighting that followed the Soviet Union's incursion to support a communist vassal government in Kabul against Islamist mujahideen fighters armed by the United States.

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