Soviet Soldier Missing Since 1980 Found Alive in Afghanistan

After 33 years, what happened to Bakhredtin Khakimov is revealed.

 A platoon of Soviet army soldiers wearing their winter boots march by a Soviet transport plane on Jan. 24, 1998, in Kabul, Afghanistan, as their fellow soldiers get ready for the final pullout.

A platoon of Soviet army soldiers wearing their winter boots march by a Soviet transport plane on Jan. 24, 1989.

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During the Soviet Union's 1980 invasion of Afghanistan, Bakhredtin Khakimov went missing.

His whereabouts have finally been revealed 33 years later. The Warriors-Internationalists Affairs Committee, a nonprofit based in Moscow, tracked down Khakimov in Afghanistan.

The organization said in a statement cited by CNN that Khakimov suffered a head wound during the invasion and was nursed back to health by a traditional healer. He was reportedly able to identify fellow Soviet troops with whom he served.

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"He now leads a semi-nomadic life with the people who sheltered him," said the nonprofit. Khakimov, an ethnic Uzbek, now practices traditional medicine himself.

A local police chief told CNN that Khakimov converted to Islam in 1993. He now goes by the name Sheikh Abdullah.

News reports differ, however, on whether Khakimov was wounded or deserted. According to one local journalist contacted by CNN, Khakimov says he stole a gun for anti-Soviet Islamist rebels before deserting.

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During the Soviet Union's nine-year war—fought to prop up an embattled communist government—approximately 15,000 of the superpower's troops were killed, according to a 1989 BBC news report.

The number of American troops who have died since the U.S. and allies invaded Afghanistan in 2001 stands at 2,178, according to icasualties.org, with the number reaching 3,258 when the losses of non-Afghan allies are included.

There is just one known American soldier missing in action and presumed alive in Afghanistan, Bowe R. Bergdahl of Idaho, who was captured by militants in 2009. Time magazine reported in May 2012 that a total of 83,436 U.S. servicemen remain missing—mostly from World War II—and are being looked for by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command.

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