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Former Afghan king Mohammad Zahir Shah dies

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  • Former Afghan king Mohammad Zahir Shah died on Monday, aged 92
  • Palace official said Zahir Shah had been sick for a month and died in bed
  • Zahir Shah ruled Afghanistan from 1933 until deposed by his cousin in 1973
  • In 1973 Zahir Shah was ousted in a bloodless coup by his cousin, Prince Daoud
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KABUL, Afghanistan (Reuters) -- Former Afghan king, Mohammad Zahir Shah, died on Monday, aged 92, presidential palace sources said.

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Zahir Shah ruled Afghanistan from 1933 until he was deposed by his cousin in 1973.

"He died today in bed, we have no further information, but he had been sick for a month," a palace official told Reuters.

Zahir Shah ruled Afghanistan from 1933 until he was deposed by his cousin in 1973. He lived in exile in Italy before returning home as an ordinary citizen in 2002.

Zahir Shah came from a long line of ethnic Pashtun rulers and is a distant relative of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

The former king's reign is remembered as one of the most peaceful periods of Afghanistan's turbulent history.

Born in Kabul on October 15, 1914, Zahir Shah received part of his education in France and returned to Kabul for military training. He ascended the throne in 1933 after his father was assassinated by a deranged student.

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For two decades, the bookish king remained in the shadows, allowing three uncles to run the government. But he gradually gained in confidence and took full control in 1953, overseeing a cautious modernization of his backward realm.

He supported an end to purdah -- the wearing of the veil -- for women, used foreign cash to develop the country's medieval infrastructure and managed to keep a balance between rival Soviet and Western interests in his country.

In 1973, while holidaying in Italy, Zahir Shah was ousted in a bloodless coup orchestrated by his cousin and brother-in-law, Prince Daoud, ending two centuries of rule by the Durrani dynasty.

Daoud was later killed in a coup and after Soviet troops entered the country in 1979 to prop up the communist government, Afghanistan has barely seen peace. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

Copyright 2007 Reuters. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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