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Karzai's half-brother assassinated

Ahmed Wali Karzai

Ahmed Wali Karzai  

Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai's younger half-brother has been killed by a trusted member of his security team, raising questions once again about the war-torn country's stability as it awaits the phased departure of foreign forces from its soil.

Ahmed Wali Karzai, the head of Kandahar's provincial council, was killed by Sardar Mohammad, a core member of the security team who was known to the slain official for nearly a decade. He commanded checkpoints in the Zaki Sharif area, close to the Karzai family's hometown of Karz, around five kilometres south of Kandahar.

At a news conference, Kandahar police chief Abdul Razeq said the assassin had travelled to the city on Tuesday morning, requesting a meeting with Mr. Ahmed Karzai for submitting an application. “The man carried his pistol through the security checks to Wali Karzai's room. As soon as Wali Karzai came out of bathroom, he opened fire and shot him in the head and chest,” said Mr. Razeq. Mr. Ahmed Karzai's bodyguards subsequently killed the assassin.

Though junior in rank to the provincial Governor, Mr. Ahmed Karzai was rated as one of the more, if not the most, powerful individuals in southern Afghanistan. Analysts say he derived his influence from his wealth, closeness to the President, and playing power broker to an array of Pashtun tribes, besides his Popalzai clan, which depended on him for patronage. There had been repeated allegations of Mr. Ahmad Karzai's involvement in narcotics trade, which was widely viewed as one of the significant sources of his wealth. In 2009, the New York Times alleged that the C.I.A. paid Mr. Ahmed Karzai “for a variety of services, including helping to recruit an Afghan paramilitary force that operates at the C.I.A.'s direction in and around the southern city of Kandahar”.

Ahmad Rashid, a Pakistan-based Taliban specialist, told Reuters that Mr. Ahmed Karzai's killing would leave a “profound vacuum” in southern Afghanistan, where “he was basically running the south for his brother”.

At a separate news conference, Governor of Kandahar Tooryalai Wesa said Mr. Ahmed Karzai's “loss will have a negative impact on issues with tribes, and current affairs and security”.

Observers say Tuesday's killing is likely to dent the morale in the presidential camp, which only a fortnight ago was jolted by the brazen attack on the tightly secured intercontinental hotel in Kabul.

As in the case of the hotel attack, the Taliban has claimed responsibility for Mr. Ahmed Karzai's slaying.

Reacting to the assassination, Amrullah Saleh, a former Afghan intelligence chief, said the de facto provincial leader had stood up to the al-Qaeda, the Taliban and the Pakistan-armed groups. “This [assassination] has boosted the morale of our enemies and given those more opportunities to infiltrate our ranks,” he was quoted as saying.

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