Afghan Vice President Marshal Mohammad Qasim Fahim, formerly one of the country's much-feared warlords, has died of natural causes, officials said today, adding that three days of national mourning would be held.
Fahim, a leader of the Tajik ethnic minority, served as senior vice president to President Hamid Karzai, who is due to step down at elections next month as NATO combat forces pull out of Afghanistan after 13 years of fighting the Taliban.
With deep sadness, the 1st voice president, Marshal M.Q. Fahim has passed away. May his soul rest in peace.
— Aimal Faizi (@AimalFaizi) March 9, 2014
Aged 56, Fahim was accused of being a ruthless strongman who maintained his own militia forces, but he also received American support as Afghanistan sought stability after the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001. "With deep sadness, the 1st vice president, Marshal M Q Fahim has passed away. May his soul rest in peace," presidential spokesman Aimal Faizi said on his Twitter account. "The government of Afghanistan has called for a three-day national mourning, during which the national flag will be half-hoisted for his demise."