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Ex-Afghan Queen’s Body Flown to Kabul

June 30, 2002

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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) _ To the solemn strains of a funeral march, the body of Afghanistan’s former queen, Homaira Shah, was returned to Kabul on Sunday for burial in the royal family tomb.

The former king, Mohammad Zaher Shah, and Afghan President Hamid Karzai were among the crowd of dignitaries on hand to meet the Italian military plane carrying the body when it touched down in blazing afternoon sunshine at Kabul’s battered international airport.

Old men in Afghan military regalia, representatives of Pashtun tribes in full traditional dress of robes and turbans, and many Cabinet ministers from the current and former interim government stood by and watched quietly as the red-and-green coffin was unloaded from the plane, borne by uniformed military pallbearers.

The king, dressed in a dark suit, walked with Karzai beside the coffin as it was paraded past the ranks of mourners, then loaded into a black hearse that drove out the gates of the airport.

The ex-queen died Wednesday of cardiac arrest at age 86. She had been married to her husband, the former Afghan monarch, since she was a teenager.

The burial was to take place later Sunday at the bullet-pocked royal tomb on a hill overlooking the capital, said Homaira Wali, her granddaughter. Memorial and funeral services were set Monday in two Kabul mosques, she said.

Because of her frail health, Homaira Shah didn’t accompany the king when he ended his 29-year exile by returning to Afghanistan in April, but she had planned to travel to Kabul as soon as she was well enough, Wali said.

The family had lived in Italy since 1973, when Zaher Shah’s 40-year reign ended in a bloodless coup. Zaher Shah returned in April to convene a loya jirga, which ended earlier this month by selecting Karzai to govern until elections take place.

The queen is survived by the king, who is also her cousin, seven of her nine children, at least 14 grandchildren and several other relatives, said Wali.

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