Afghans fail to arrest ex-soccer head on sex abuse charges

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Supporters of the former head of Afghanistan’s soccer federation, who is accused of sexually assaulting and harassing several players on the women’s national team, prevented Afghan special forces from arresting him, officials said Monday.

FIFA imposed a life ban and a fine of 1 million Swiss francs ($1.06 million) on Keramuddin Karim last year, and Afghan authorities issued an arrest warrant, but he remains at large.

The inability to arrest him reflects the lingering power of local warlords and authorities’ failure to uphold women’s rights nearly two decades after the U.S.-led invasion that toppled the Taliban.

Amin Sediqqi, the deputy governor of the northern Panjshir province, said the arresting forces were met with a “reaction” by armed men. He said provincial authorities were not aware of the operation and are now working through local elders to calm the situation. No one was killed or wounded in the confrontation, he said.

The arrest operation was launched Sunday night and involved air and ground forces who deployed in the village of Sangi, where Karim has a home and where his family lives.

Rohullah Sangi, a village resident, said the response to the government’s operation was driven by a sense of “unbalanced justice.” Citing the arrest of another local official on corruption charges on Saturday, he accused the government of targeting their tribe, calling it an “insult to our identity.”

Last month, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had called on the people of Panjshir to expel Karim so he could face justice. His government has only limited authority in large swathes of the mountainous and mostly rural country.

Last month, a court upheld the FIFA ban, saying Karim had committed “appalling acts” against players who accused him of sexual and physical abuse over a five-year period from 2013. The allegations were first published in media reports the previous year.

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