The half-brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai was shot dead at his home in Kandahar on Tuesday, authorities said.
Ahmed Wali Karzai, the Kandahar provincial council chief, was killed during a gathering, said provincial governor Tooryalai Wesa. He did not know a motive.
While the governor initially said a friend killed Karzai, his spokesman later clarified that the death was at the hands of a guard.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the shooting, saying that the guard accused of shooting him was working for them.
Karzai suffered bullet wounds to his head and chest, said Mohammad Dawood Farhad, the head of Kandahar Hospital.
“My brother Ahmad Wali Karzai was killed today,” said the Afghan president in a previously -scheduled news conference with visiting French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
“The Afghanistan people have suffered a lot. Every Afghan family has suffered. I hope one day these sufferings end.”
Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, offered his condolences to the Afghan president and said ISAF will help the Afghan government “bring justice” to those involved in the killing.
“President Karzai is working to create a stronger, more secure Afghanistan, and for such a tragic event to happen to someone within his own family is unfathomable,” Petraeus said.
The U.S. Embassy in Kabul issued a statement condemning the assassination.
In a meeting with a senior U.S. diplomat, Ahmed Wali Karzai once made the case that he, not the governor of Kandahar, was “the most powerful official in Kandahar and could deliver whatever is needed,” according to a cable about the meeting leaked last year by WikiLeaks.
Ahmed Wali Karzai, who has been dogged by drug dealing accusations, also brought the subject up in the meeting, according to the cable.
“Unprompted, AWK (Ahmed Wali Karzai) raised allegations of his involvement in narcotics, telling the (U.S. official) that he is willing to take a polygraph anytime, anywhere to prove his innocence,” the cable said.
Karzai said the drug-dealing rap is part of a campaign to discredit him, “like a spice added to a dish to make it more enticing to eat.”
After a separate meeting with Ahmed Wali Karzai, a U.S. official who authored another cable wrote, “While we must deal with AWK as the head of the Provincial Council, he is widely understood to be corrupt and a narcotics trafficker. End Note.”
The cable concluded: “The meeting with AWK highlights one of our major challenges in Afghanistan. How to fight corruption and connect the people to their government, when the key government officials are themselves corrupt. Given AWK’s reputation for shady dealings, his recommendations for large, costly infrastructure projects should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism.”
In the first cable, Ahmed Wali Karzai offers suggestions on how to stop drug dealing. “He suggested that the coalition pay mullahs to preach against heroin, which would reduce demand for poppy cultivation.”
The author of the cable also wrote that Ahmed Wali Karzai “appears not to understand the level of our knowledge of his activities, and that the coalition views many of his activities as malign, particularly relating to his influence over the police.”
In addition to discussions of war, drugs and Afghan politics, a comment in one of the cables also addressed an American sports landmark.
“Further emphasizing his links to the United States, AWK fondly recalled his days in Chicago as a restaurant owner close to Chicago’s Wrigley Field. His restaurant was a hub for American(s) in the Midwest who had worked or lived in Afghanistan prior to the Soviet invasion,” the cable read.