Coming up

Don't miss




No strategy and a beige suit

Read more


The World This Week - 29 August 2014 (part 2)

Read more


The World This Week - 29 August 2014

Read more


Alain Choquette: A Hilarious Magician in Paris

Read more


France welcomes Iraqi Christian refugees

Read more


Emmanuel Macron: A new economy minister with a pro-business agenda

Read more


More of this year's best Observers stories

Read more

#TECH 24

Changing the world, one video game at a time

Read more


Socialist Party summer conference kicks off in explosive atmosphere

Read more

  • EU leaders choose Tusk and Mogherini for top jobs, discuss Russia sanctions

    Read more

  • Dozens of UN peacekeepers still held by Syrian jihadists

    Read more

  • Opposition protesters clash with Pakistani police outside PM's house

    Read more

  • Austerity row overshadows French Socialist’s annual rally

    Read more

  • Egypt sentences Brotherhood leader Badie to life

    Read more

  • Ceasfire allows Gaza families to relax on the beach

    Read more

  • S. Africa condemns 'military coup' in Lesotho

    Read more

  • Kerry calls for 'coalition of nations' to battle IS militants

    Read more

  • Ukrainian plane with seven on board crashes in Algeria

    Read more

  • Exclusive: Fabius warns Russia of more sanctions

    Read more

  • IMF backs Lagarde amid French corruption probe

    Read more

  • Ebola drug ‘ZMapp’ heals all monkeys in study

    Read more

  • British killer escapes from French psychiatric hospital

    Read more

  • Police hunt for British boy with brain tumour taken to France

    Read more

  • Ukraine to relaunch NATO membership bid

    Read more

  • Suriname leader’s son pleads guilty to courting Hezbollah

    Read more

  • Mapping Ukraine: Canada and Russia in ‘tweet for tat’ row

    Read more


Karzai brother, controversial powerbroker, assassinated

Video by FRANCE 24

Text by Leela JACINTO

Latest update : 2011-07-13

Ahmed Wali Karzai, Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s controversial brother, rode the tide of history from an Afghan refugee to Chicago restaurateur to powerbroker. His killing on Tuesday has sent shockwaves across the country.

Fingering his prayer beads, his portly frame encased in a loose-fitting shalwar kameez – the traditional ensemble favoured by Afghanistan’s most powerful men – Ahmed Wali Karzai for many years held a quasi durbar in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, where his constituents arrived to plead their cases and lodge their complaints because they knew Karzai had more power and influence than any other man in southern Afghanistan.

On Tuesday, Ahmed Wali Karzai, a brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai and a man popularly known as “the most powerful man in southern Afghanistan”, was killed in his home city of Kandahar.

Thousands attend Ahmed Wali Karzai's funeral

His assassination sent shockwaves across the country and the international community, with the killing widely seen as a personal blow to the Afghan president.

“Politics in Afghanistan is very personalized, so his death is highly symbolic,” said Thomas Ruttig, a former UN diplomat and co-founder of the Kabul-based Afghanistan Analysts Network. “For (Afghan President Hamid) Karzai, his death is a psychological blow. This attack will be interpreted as a blow against the Afghan president.”

Born in the southern Afghan town of Karz in 1961, Karzai – like his brothers – fled Afghanistan for Pakistan during the Soviet occupation before making his way to the US, where he owned a restaurant in Chicago.

Shortly after the 2001 fall of the Taliban, Karzai returned to his homeland where he rapidly gained prominence – mostly for the wrong reasons. Persistent reports of his links with the drug trade seriously undermined his brother’s credibility as the international community’s complaints of Karzai's corruption grew louder.

Despite increasing international pressure, President Karzai refused – or was unable – to control the influence of his younger brother in southern Afghanistan.

Who killed Karzai? Claims, counterclaims, no surprises

The head of the Kandahar provincial council, Karzai was widely reputed to have links with drug barons, criminal networks, security services as well as the CIA. As his fame and power grew over the past few years, he was perennially shadowed by a retinue of heavily armed bodyguards

Taliban claim responsibility for killing of Karzai's brother

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the assassination of President Hamid Karzai's younger brother on Tuesday. A Taliban spokesman told the AFP that it was "one of our biggest achievements" in nearly a decade of war.

But according to early reports, it was apparently one of those bodyguards who turned fire on the man he was supposed to protect.

Shortly after the attack, Abdul Ghafar Sayedzada, head of the counter-terrorism department at the Afghan Interior Ministry, told Reuters that, “It appears Ahmad Wali Karzai has been killed by one of his bodyguard, and there was nobody from outside involved."

The Taliban were quick to take responsibility for the attack – one of the most high-profile and carefully targeted since they were ousted from power in 2001.

In a phone interview with the AFP, a purported Taliban spokesman said the militant group had assigned a gunman – whom he referred to as “Sardar Mohammad” – to kill Karzai.

"This is one of our biggest achievements since the (spring) operation began. We assigned Sardar Mohammad to kill him recently and Sardar Mohammad is also martyred," said the purported Taliban spokesman.

But an Afghan intelligence official refuted the Taliban’s claim, maintaining that Karzai was killed by an “old friend”.

"He was visiting Wali in his home. They were meeting alone in a room, and he gets his pistol and shoots him dead,” said the official, speaking to the AFP on condition of anonymity.

The assassin was later killed by Karzai’s bodyguards, added the intelligence official.

The claims and counterclaims surrounding Karzai’s assassination did not surprise Ruttig, a veteran Afghan expert. “It’s too early to tell if the Taliban claims are credible,” said Ruttig. “They would definitely have tried to target him, but then so many others would be interested in eliminating him. This is a man who had armed factions, counterinsurgency forces. His people killed a lot of people and many Afghans claimed they were not the Taliban, but Karzai’s enemies. There’s a whole spectrum of people who could have conducted the attack.”

Tuesday’s attack was not the first attempt on Karzai’s life. In May 2009, his motorcade was ambushed by insurgents firing rockets and machine guns in the eastern province of Nangarhar. One of his bodyguards was killed, but Karzai was not harmed.

‘My younger brother was martyred’

Karzai’s assassination came as French President Nicolas Sarkozy was on a brief visit to Afghanistan Tuesday morning.


At a joint press conference in Kabul Tuesday, President Karzai confirmed the killing of his younger brother.

"My younger brother was martyred in his house today. This is the life of all Afghan people, I hope these miseries which every Afghan family faces will one day end," said President Karzai at the start of a news conference with Sarkozy.

Earlier Tuesday, Sarkozy visited a French military base in the eastern Afghan province of Kapisa. Addressing French soldiers in Kapisa, Sarkozy said France would pull out 1,000 troops by the end of 2012 as it speeds up its withdrawal with the United States.

France has some 4,000 soldiers in Afghanistan.

As the international troop presence winds down in Afghanistan ahead of the 2014 pullout, many Afghan and international military experts worry that Afghan troops are not sufficiently equipped to handle security in the volatile, war-torn nation.

The murder of the most powerful man in southern Afghanistan, a man who rode the tide of history from an Afghan refugee to Chicago restaurateur to powerbroker, highlights the insecurity in Afghanistan a decade after the international mission there began.


Date created : 2011-07-12


    France to begin Afghan withdrawal by end of 2012

    Read more


    Top hotel in Kabul attacked by suicide bombers

    Read more


    Top Afghan banker: From 'milk cow' to sacrificial lamb?

    Read more