KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan's embattled vice president, Abdul Rashid Dostum, left Kabul for Turkey on Friday night, according to Afghan officials, amid unresolved accusations that he ordered his men to abduct, beat, and rape a political rival last year.
There was no official word from the government about Dostum's future, and officials declined to say whether his departure was linked to Afghan authorities' investigation of the incident.
Dostum has not been charged with any offence and the status of the government's investigation remains unclear. His spokesman Bashir Ahmad Tayanj said he had left for a medical checkup, and would be back soon after the treatment.
"General Dostum never leaves the country but remains alongside his people during difficult times," Tayanj said.
Dostum, a powerful ethnic Uzbek warlord with decades of experience in Afghanistan's turbulent politics, faces accusations that he ordered members of his personal militia to seize and detain Ahmad Ishchi, a former ally. He has denied the accusations.
Ishchi says he was subjected to days of severe beatings and sexual abuse, prompting demands from Western allies of the government for an investigation and trial.
Over the past months, however, the government has failed to bring Dostum in for questioning and the standoff has become something of a stalemate, leading to increased speculation that Dostum would be forced into exile in Turkey instead.
It would not be the first exile in Turkey for Dostum, a man the U.S. State Department once called the "quintessential warlord."
In 2008 he left for Turkey amid similar accusations that his men had abducted, beaten and sexually assaulted a political rival in Kabul, then fired on police responding to the incident.
Dostum later returned and re-entered Afghan politics, eventually becoming vice president to President Ashraf Ghani in the 2014 elections.
Reporting by Hamid Shalizi; Writing by Josh Smith; Editing by Mark Trevelyan