Influential brother of Afghan president killed at home

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan,  (Reuters) – A brother of  Afghan President Hamid Karzai and one of the most powerful men  in southern Afghanistan was shot dead at his home today,  apparently by a senior and highly trusted bodyguard, officials  said.
Ahmad Wali Karzai was a controversial figure, but his  assassination will leave a dangerous power vacuum in Kandahar,  the Taliban’s birthplace and a focus of recent efforts by a  “surge” of U.S. troops to turn the tide against the insurgency.
He also played a critical role in shoring up his brother’s  influence in the south, and President Karzai may find his reach  there is now limited.
“My younger brother was martyred in his house today. This is  the life of all Afghan people. I hope these miseries which every  Afghan family faces will one day end,” Karzai said at a news  conference in Kabul. He gave no more details.
Ahmad Wali Karzai was shot dead by Sardar Mohammad, a senior  member of his security detail who once guarded the president, a  source at the National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan’s  intelligence agency, told Reuters.
“Sardar Mohammad was a senior bodyguard to Wali Karzai and  highly trusted. He had been with Karzai’s family for the last  ten years,” the source said, adding Ahmad Wali Karzai had died  almost instantly because he was shot in the head and chest.
Mohammad was shot dead by other bodyguards moments after  opening fire, the source said.
The killing cast a pall over the city of Kandahar. Police  had set up extra checkpoints, security forces flooded into the  city and shops were closed down in the central areas.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for one of the most  high-profile assassinations of the last decade after news of his  death became public. They have in the past taken responsibility  for attacks that security services question their role in.
Years in power and his sometimes ruthless operating methods  meant there might be many other people keen to target Karzai who  was often known simply by his initials, AWK.
“I’m not sure whether I would assume that this was the  Taliban because he had a lot of enemies down there,” said Thomas  Ruttig, co-director of the Afghanistan Analysts Network.
Officials in Kabul and Kandahar declined comment on whether  they thought the killing was personal, connected to the  insurgency or driven by other grievances.
Ahmad Wali Karzai had survived several other assassination  attempts. He said in May 2009 he had been ambushed on the road  to Kabul by Taliban insurgents who killed one of his bodyguards.
In November 2008, he escaped unscathed from an attack on  government buildings in his home province which killed six, and  in 2003 there was an explosion outside his home.

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