Image: Afghan guards carry portrait
Musadeq Sadeq  /  AP
Afghan guards of honor carry a portrait of Afghanistan's first president, Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan, during a ceremony to rebury him at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday. Daud Khan's remains along with his aides were recently discovered at a mass grave years after they were shot dead during a military coup.
updated 3/17/2009 9:55:34 PM ET 2009-03-18T01:55:34

Executed in a coup 30 years ago, buried hastily in a mass grave along with a small golden Quran, the man who turned Afghanistan from a monarchy into a republic has returned in a flag-draped coffin to the same palace where he met his death.

The body of President Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan was unearthed after a former Afghan general involved in the secret burial pointed the way last year to two mass graves. In July 2008, graves were opened that held the bodies of the former leader and 17 family members and associates killed with him.

Daud Khan, whose shooting death ushered in an era of Soviet domination over the country that lasted for a decade, was identified by teeth molds — but the key was the Quran, a gift from a Saudi king found along with the body in July 2008.

Buried along a hillside with family members
President Hamid Karzai, who directed the effort to identify his predecessor's remains, led a ceremony Tuesday, which began in the presidential palace where Daud Khan and his family were killed. Among those who attended were Karzai, his allies and political opponents, and the former president's surviving family members, along with international ambassadors.

An honor guard accompanied Daud Khan's body from the palace, with soldiers bearing the coffin and larger-than-life portraits. He was buried along with family members on a hillside overlooking the mountains that surround Kabul.

The executed president drew praise for his five-year rule.

"After his death three decades of war ensued — first the Soviets invaded and then the civil war ensued. The people now hold his time as one of the best in Afghanistan's history," said Mohammad Qasem Akhgar, an editor-in-chief of the Kabul daily named "8 a.m."

"He wanted development and progress in the country, he wanted democracy, but he also wanted to control everything. We should not forget that during his presidency, a lot of economic projects started. He believed in a strong educational system, as a basis for development, and was the man who established the Afghan state television."

Soviet troops rolled into Afghanistan in late December 1979. They occupied the country for 10 years but were forced to leave as the Soviet Union was breaking up in 1989.

They were replaced by the chaos of civil war, Taliban control and, finally, the U.S. invasion after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Militants make violent comeback
The Islamic militants have made a violent comeback the last three years following an apparent initial defeat after the 2001 U.S. invasion. In response, the U.S. is sending thousands of new troops to the south — the Taliban's heartland — this year to try to reverse their gains.

But a spike in violence is an early indication that insurgent attacks are likely to surge as some 17,000 U.S. forces arrive this year to bolster the record 38,000 Americans already in Afghanistan.

An Australian soldier serving with NATO-led forces died Monday of wounds sustained in a firefight with 20 Taliban insurgents, Australia's Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston said Tuesday. The clash followed a surge in violence in Afghanistan last weekend that led to the deaths of eight other foreign troops, including four Americans.

Also Tuesday, U.S.-led coalition troops killed seven militants and detained three others during a raid on a bomb-making cell in southern Afghanistan.

Separately, Taliban militants ambushed a police patrol in Kandahar's Panjwayi district, killing five officers and damaging their vehicle, said Bismillah Khan, a police officer.

More on: Afghanistan | Taliban

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