Afghan President Hamid Karzai's younger half-brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, was shot dead in his home on Tuesday, allegedly by one of his personal bodyguards.
The younger Karzai, a key power broker in the south, was the head of the Kandahar Provincial Council and ran his own private militia there. While he was also a controversial figure, accused of being corrupt and a narcotics trafficker, his death could leave a power vacuum in the restive south as U.S. troops begin to draw down in the country.
While the Taliban claimed responsibility for the killing, the Kandahar provincial police chief said Karzai was killed by "the long-serving commander of his family's personal protection force," according to Agence France-Presse. The assassin, whom a witness said was carrying an AK-47, was quickly shot down by the other bodyguards. Hospital officials told the Associated Press that Wali Karzai was shot once in the head and the chest.
Wali Karzai’s death is sure to present a significant loss for the Afghan president, who relied on him as one of the most powerful men in Kandahar, the Taliban’s spiritual birthplace. The volatile province was the centerpiece of the U.S.-led coalition’s efforts to rout out militants in the 2009 surge.
"This morning my younger brother Ahmed Wali Karzai was murdered in his home," Hamid Karzai said. "Such is the life of Afghanistan's people. In the houses of the people of Afghanistan, each of us is suffering and our hope is that, God willing, to remove this suffering from the people of Afghanistan and implement peace and stability."