Influential brother of Afghan president Karzai shot dead

Taliban claim responsibility for assassination, saying they had persuaded one of Ahmad Wali Karzai's bodyguards to turn on him.

Ahmad Wali Karzai 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Ahmad Wali Karzai 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - Ahmad Wali Karzai, a brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai and one of the most powerful men in southern Afghanistan, was shot dead on Tuesday, apparently by one of his bodyguards, officials said.
He 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 US troops to turn the tide against the insurgency.
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"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," President Karzai said at the start of a news conference with his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy in Kabul.
The Afghan Interior Ministry said he was shot dead, and Abdul Ghafar Sayedzada, head of the ministry's counter-terrorism department, said the killing was probably the work of someone from his inner circle.
"It appears Ahmad Wali Karzai has been killed by one of his bodyguards, and there was nobody from outside involved," Sayedzada told Reuters.
Ahmad Wali, the head of Kandahar's provincial council, had survived two other assassination attempts in recent years. He said in May 2009 that he had been ambushed on the road to Kabul by Taliban insurgents, who killed one of his bodyguards in an early morning attack.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying they had persuaded one of Karzai's bodyguards to turn on him. The hardline terror group often exaggerate battlefield claims, however, and in the past have taken responsibility for attacks that security services question their role in.
A half brother of the president, Ahmad Wali was a critical power-broker who helped shore up Karzai's influence in volatile southern Afghanistan.