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Karzai Aide Killed Less Than Week After President’s Brother

Afghan President Hamid Karzai
Afghan president Hamid Karzai. Photographer: Brendan Hoffman/Bloomberg

A senior adviser to Hamid Karzai was shot dead at home in Kabul yesterday in a second blow to the Afghan president less than a week after the assassination of his powerful half brother.

Two militants stormed the home of Jan Mohammed Khan, a former governor of Uruzgan province, at about 8 p.m., killing him as well as parliamentary lawmaker Mohammed Hashem Watanwal, the Interior Ministry said in a statement. The gunmen held off security forces for five hours before being shot dead, Hashmatullah Stanekzai, spokesman for Kabul’s police chief, said by phone. One police officer died in the encounter.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which came five days after Ahmed Wali Karzai was killed at home by a bodyguard in the southern province of Kandahar. The death of the president’s younger brother, who had dominated politics in Kandahar, a Taliban stronghold, underscored the security challenges Afghanistan faces as the U.S. begins withdrawing troops. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrives in India today for discussions that will include Afghanistan.

Khan was a member of Karzai’s Popalzai tribe and supported the president’s 2009 election campaign in Uruzgan before being appointed as an adviser on tribal affairs, said Ahmad Saeedi, a political analyst and former Afghan diplomat.

“The Taliban are trying to weaken the Afghan government by killing senior officials,” Saeedi said today by phone in Kabul. “They are trying to put pressure on Karzai and deliver a psychological blow.”

Killing ‘Traitors’

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed said by telephone from an undisclosed location that the Islamic movement, forced from power in Kabul by the U.S. following the September 11, 2001 attacks, was targeting “traitors in their houses.”

The Taliban, which said it had secretly recruited Ahmed Wali’s killer, in the past has claimed responsibility for attacks that it has been found later not to have conducted.

President Barack Obama last month said the U.S. will withdraw 10,000 troops from Afghanistan, where they are fighting the Taliban, before the end of this year and an additional 23,000 by September 2012. Other nations have announced their own troop reduction plans.

General John Allen today took command of U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan, replacing David Petraeus, who is retiring from the military to become director of the Central Intelligence Agency, the Associated Press reported. The change at the top came as the 48-nation International Security Assistance Force said in a statement that three troops had been killed in a bombing in the country’s east.

Security Transfer

Afghan forces yesterday were handed control of security in the entire province of Bamiyan, the first of seven areas scheduled to pass into local hands.

During Hamid Karzai’s near-decade as Afghanistan’s leader, Ahmed Wali, his younger brother by four years, remained in Kandahar, the country’s second-largest city and the political center for the south.

A convoy carrying the governor of neighboring Helmand province and his police chief to Karzai’s funeral was hit by a roadside bomb. A suicide bomber detonated explosives hidden inside his turban at a Kandahar mosque on July 14, killing four people attending a memorial service for Ahmed Wali Karzai. At least 13 people were wounded.

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