A suicide bomber killed the mayor of Kandahar by detonating explosives hidden in his turban, in the third high-profile assassination of a prominent government figure from Afghanistan’s restive south in just over two weeks. The Taliban quickly took responsibility for the attack in Ghulam Haider Hamidi’s office, further inflaming security concerns as the U.S. plans to draw down in the country.
The bomber, according to the Associated Press, entered a heavily fortified government building as a delegation of citizens met with the mayor over a land dispute.
According to The New York Times, the mayor was close to Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s half-brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, who was gunned down in his compound two weeks ago by one of his trusted police commanders. Hamidi’s name had surfaced as a possible successor to Wali Karzai, the region’s de facto ruler as the head of Kandahar’s provincial council, as regional power brokers scrambled to replace him. Days later, militants killed Jan Mohammad Khan, an adviser to the president on tribal issues and a former governor of Uruzgan province in southern Afghanistan, in his home in Kabul. The spate of deaths is fueling concerns about the creation of a power vacuum as the U.S. plans to redeploy forces out of southern Afghanistan to renew focus on the country’s volatile east.
The new U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker, and the new commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen, told reporters there that the latest assassination highlights the challenges ahead in the war-torn country.
"Assassinations are horrific acts -- they are acts of terror and can have major impacts," Crocker said. "But I don't think you can chart a straight line that says that three assassinations guarantees a total unraveling either of international support or Afghan confidence. It could very well go the other way."