Killing of adviser another blow to Afghan leader

Smoke rises after a coalition airstrike against a building believed occupied by Taliban fighters in Kuz Kunar, Nangarhar province, east of Kabul, Afghanistan, on Sunday.

Associated Press

Smoke rises after a coalition airstrike against a building believed occupied by Taliban fighters in Kuz Kunar, Nangarhar province, east of Kabul, Afghanistan, on Sunday.

KABUL, Afghanistan — Gunmen strapped with explosives killed a close adviser to Afghan President Hamid Karzai and a member of Parliament on Sunday in an insurgent strike against his inner circle.

Jan Mohammed Khan was a fierce foe of the Taliban in Afghanistan's south and an adviser to Karzai on tribal issues. His killing came less than a week after the assassination of Ahmed Wali Karzai, the president's half brother and one of the most powerful men in southern Afghanistan.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said the group killed Khan because he was assisting coalition forces in carrying out night raids against Afghans. The controversial raids carried out by NATO forces have been highly effective in capturing or killing hundreds of Taliban fighters and midlevel commanders. Karzai has complained the raids anger many Afghans who are mistakenly targeted.

Two men wearing suicide bomb vests and armed with guns attacked Khan's home in the western Kabul district of Karti Char, said Defense Ministry official Gen. Zahir Wardak. Khan, who was governor of the Uruzgan province in the south from 2002 until March 2006, was shot along with Uruzgan lawmaker Mohammed Ashim Watanwal, the official said.

Police killed one of the attackers before he could detonate his explosives, while the other was still barricaded inside the home, said the head of the Kabul police investigation unit, Mohammed Zahir. A member of the police's antiterrorism unit was also killed, he added.

It was unclear how influential Khan was with Karzai, but he was thought to wield considerable influence in Uruzgan.

The Taliban has also claimed responsibility for Tuesday's killing of Karzai's half brother, who was shot dead by a close associate, but the motives of the gunman remain unknown.

Wali Karzai's death left the president without an influential ally to balance the interests of the southern region's tribal and political leaders, drug runners, insurgents and militias.

The slaying of another Karzai ally from the southern belt heightened concerns that militants were attempting to weaken the president's standing and unravel fragile security gains there after months of intense fighting by NATO and Afghan forces.

Uruzgan province sits just to the north of Kandahar province, the Taliban heartland where Wali Karzai had been a polarizing but powerful leader.

Imprisoned during the Taliban's rule, Khan was seen as an eager and bitter foe of insurgents who worked with the NATO-led coalition during his time as governor. But he was dogged by accusations of corruption and failure to provide basic public services. He lost his post in 2006 and was brought to Kabul.

Information from the New York Times was used in this report.

3 NATO deaths

NATO said Sunday that three service members have died. One was killed by a roadside bomb in eastern Afghanistan and two were killed by a similar device in the south. It did not release their nationalities or any further details. The deaths bring the total number of coalition forces killed this month to 34.

Handover to police

International military forces in Afghanistan handed over control of a peaceful province in the center of the country, Bamiyan, to police on Sunday. It was another step in a transition that will allow foreign troops to withdraw in full by the end of 2014. Seven areas are to be handed over to the Afghan government this month.

Killing of adviser another blow to Afghan leader 07/17/11 [Last modified: Monday, July 18, 2011 12:33am]

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