KABUL, Afghanistan — The half-brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai was assassinated by a trusted security official Tuesday, a killing that was immediately claimed by the Taliban and deprives the United States of a controversial but powerful ally in southern Afghanistan.
Ahmed Wali Karzai, 48 and head of Kandahar's provincial council, was meeting with tribal elders and politicians in his heavily fortified home in downtown Kandahar city when Sardar Mohammed, a longtime confidant and police commander, arrived and requested a private discussion, according to Tooryalai Wesa, the provincial governor of Kandahar.
The two men met alone in a room. As Ahmed Wali Karzai was signing the papers, the assassin "took out a pistol and shot him with two bullets — one in the forehead and one in the chest," Wesa said. Another official, however, said the wounds were to Wali Karzai's head, hand and leg.
Ahmed Wali Karzai's bodyguards then rushed into the room and shot and killed Mohammed.
President Hamid Karzai spoke of his brother's death at a news conference in Kabul with French President Nicolas Sarkozy. "This morning, my young brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, was martyred at his home," Karzai said in a strained voice. "This is the life of the people of Afghanistan, and each Afghan family has suffered in such a way." In Washington, White House spokesman Jay Carney said the United States condemned Karzai's murder "in the strongest possible terms."
Ahmed Wali Karzai lived in the United States for about 10 years. In 1983, he moved to Chicago, and once ran his family's Helmand restaurant in the city's North Side Lakeview neighborhood. The restaurant has since closed.
The Taliban did not offer any proof that the assassin was working under its auspices. And Karzai, who often was accused of narcotics trading and profiting from private security companies, had many enemies in Kandahar — any one of whom could have orchestrated the killing.
This report contains information from the Associated Press, McClatchy Newspapers and the Washington Post.