Taliban claim assassination of President Karzai's brother
Ahmed Wali Karzai (right), the half brother of President Hamid Karzai. EPA photo.
The Taliban are claiming credit for the assassination of Ahmed Wali Karzai, the half brother of the Afghan president and a key power broker in the strategic southern province of Kandahar.
The controversial Ahmed Wali Karzai was gunned down in his office in Kandahar City earlier today by Sardar Mohammed, who has been described as a bodyguard and the commander of security outposts in Karza just south of the provincial capital. Mohammed was conducting a meeting with Ahmed Wali behind closed doors when he pulled out a pistol and shot him in the head. Ahmed Wali died before he could reach the hospital. The assassin was gunned down by Ahmed Wali's bodyguards.
In a statement released on their website, Voice of Jihad, the Taliban claimed responsibility for the murder of Ahmed Wali, and said that the assassin "was in contact with Mujahideen."
"The killing of Ahmad Wali Karzai is considered as one of the most successful attacks carried out by Mujahideen since the beginning of Operation Badr," the Taliban claimed. Operation Badr is the Taliban's counteroffensive that is designed to counteract NATO's surge in the Afghan south. One of the goals has been the assassination of key Afghan political and military leaders.
While the assassination of Ahmed Wali could not be confirmed as a Taliban operation, the terror group has successfully executed other high-profile assassinations in the recent past. Since the spring of 2010, the list of those killed in the Taliban's assassination campaign in Kandahar includes the provincial chief of police, the deputy governor of Kandahar, the district chief for Arghandab, and the deputy mayor of Kandahar City.
Ahmed Wali served as the head of the provincial council in Kandahar, and was widely recognized as the government's most powerful man in the key southern province, home to the birthplace of the Taliban. He was a lightning rod for criticism due to his role in the drug trade, his domination of local security companies, and accusations that he provided explosives and other support to the Taliban. Ahmed Wali was also on the CIA's payroll.
In 2009, the US military was critical of Ahmed Wali and sought to have him removed from power. The US ultimately failed, as President Hamid Karzai fiercely protected his half brother and insulated him from efforts to dislodge him from power.
It is unclear what impact Ahmed Wali's assassination will have on the recent security gains in Kandahar and the south.
"He was the number-one man in Kandahar," Mir Wali Khan, a former parliament member from Helmand province who was close to Ahmed Wali and was present at his home at the time of the shooting, told The Associated Press. "We expect now the security of Kandahar will get worse, and the fighting among the tribes will grow stronger and stronger."
- Afghan president's half brother killed in south, The Associated Press
- Ahmed Wali Karzai, brother of Afghan president, killed by trusted guard, The Washington Post
- Taliban announce beginning of their 'spring offensive,' The Long War Journal