Recently, a colleague from Afghan Eye, an independent media organisation covering Afghanistan, shared with us a video uploaded by a Twitter user which purportedly showed an Afghan elder of some renown handling and firing an AK-pattern rifle. The man in question was Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (ګلبدين حكمتيار) is an Afghan leader of the popular Afghan political party called Hizb-I-Islami Gulbuddin to differentiate from the Hiz-I-Islami parent party they split from, an ex-warlord and politician, sometimes nicknamed ‘the butcher of Kabul’ due to the destruction his forces wrought upon the capital of Afghanistan – Kabul – during the 1990’s Afghan civil war.
Hekmatyar was filmed recently in the mountains on the outskirts of Kabul handling a very clean looking but uncommon Russian produced assault rifle – the AKS-74 – itself a variant of the AK-74 platform, most likely a remnant of the Soviet-Afghan war of the 70’s and 80’s. This pattern of AK rifle is chambered in the 5.45×39mm and features a side-folding skeleton buttstock. The rifle featured in the video also has a 45 round ‘bakelite’ magazine which may evoke memories of another firearm seen used by many infamous characters. The men surrounding him also carry AKM pattern rifles of some vintage which appear to be rather well-used. The companions with Hekmatyar are seen and heard applauding him as he hits the targets he is firing at in the background you may hear the ping of a projectile hitting some sort of surface, most likely metal.
The stance and way he presents himself in the short clip had a very close parallel with the infamous video of Usama Bin-Ladin similarly shooting a late pattern Russian AKM modified with a side-folding buttstock with a 30 round ‘bakelite’ magazine inserted. In the stills from the infamous video, Bin-Ladin is surrounded by men, he is seen kneeling down and firing a few shots from the rifle dressed in his usual Arab attire.
Hekmatyar has also been photographed and filmed with an AKS-74U in his backdrop, much like the infamous videos of Usama Bin-Ladin where he has a number of AKS-74U carbines with a 45 round magazines fitted too. Not only that but in an older video release he has put out, he has a Khyber produced AK M4gery rifle laying in his backdrop instead of an M4/A1 or an AKS-74U as, this may be during his lengthy time in Pakistan before his return to Afghanistan in May of 2017. The AKS-74U is much more rarer there than in Afghanistan and much more expensive therefore it would make sense no have a replacement.
It’s interesting to see these practices used by Hekmatyar although it’s something done by many persons apart from himself for their symbolism of power and use as a staus symbol. We must iterate that he has no affiliation with the organisations associated with Bin-Ladin.