A former soldier has been found hiding in Afghanistan after 33 years. Bakhretdin Khakimov disappeared in 1979 and was found two weeks ago by members of the Warriors-Internationalists Affairs Committee (WIAC), a Moscow-based organization.
Reports state that Khakimov was wounded in 1980 and rescued by Afghanistan villagers; he decided to stay with them and became a medicine healer. Khakimov adopted the name Sheik Abdullah and remained in the area, in hiding, and made a new life for himself, even marrying a local Afghanistan woman.
The WIAC began its search for him one year ago and carefully retraced all of his steps immediately after he went missing and was able to find him in the remote province.
"Looking for missing soldiers is among our top priorities. And it's a tough job," WIAC chief Ruslan Aushev told media at a news conference in Russia.
Khakimov was found in good health and is eager to reunite with his relatives.
"His memory is sound and he quickly gave the names of his parents, brothers and sister. He wants to meet his relatives," the WIAC chief added.
"It is very sad our parents did not live to see today. I can't wait to see him," his brother Sharof told the Daily Mail.
During the battle with Afghanistan, approximately 15,000 Soviets died, while nearly 1 million Afghan civilians perished. The war lasted over 10 years and cost both sides dearly.
Khakimov is only one of approximately 264 Soviet soldiers searched for by the WIAC. Its goal is to find all those who were never heard from again, whether they chose to remain in Afghanistan or other areas, or were held against their will.
The organization often relies upon Afghan veterans to help with their searches.
"Those who were shooting at us are the only ones to have information –and they share it. We get very good treatment. They tell us, 'Come back, just without the firearms. We respect you,'" Lavrentyev told RIA Novosti News.