KANDAHAR: Afghanistan’s President, Mr Hamid Karzai’s powerful half brother, a lightning rod for criticism of deep-rooted corruption within the Afghan government, was assassinated Tuesday by a bodyguard at his home in southern Afghanistan.
Ahmed Wali Karzai, the head of the Kandahar provincial council, was shot twice, once in the head and once in the chest, according to hospital officials.
The motive of the killing has not been established, but his death served a new blow to the US-coalition efforts to curb violence and the government’s quest to gain control of this Taliban stronghold.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the assassination.
A person who witnessed the killing said a member of Wali Karzai’s private security team killed him with an AK-47. The individual, who declined to be identified, said that other bodyguards quickly gunned down the assassin.
Wali Karzai, who was in his 50s, was seen by many as a political liability for the Karzai government after a series of allegations, including that he was on the CIA payroll and involved in drug trafficking. He denied the charges.
The President repeatedly challenged his accusers to show him evidence of his sibling’s wrongdoing, but said nobody ever could. Wali Karzai remained a key power broker in the south, helping shore up his family’s interests in the Taliban’s southern heartland, which has been the site of numerous offensives by US, coalition and Afghan troops to root out insurgents. Militants have retaliated by intimidating and killing local government officials or others against the Taliban.
The United Nations said in a quarterly report issued on June 23 that more than half of all assassinations across Afghanistan since March had been in Kandahar. The killing came just hours before the President held a news conference with the French President, Mr Nicolas Sarzoky.