Kandahar's mayor killed in suicide blast
The Taliban have claimed responsibility for a suicide attack that killed the mayor of Kandahar, Ghulam Haidar Hamidi, in the southern Afghanistan city Wednesday. The death comes two weeks after President Hamid Karzai's brother was assassinated.
Reuters - Afghanistan’s Kandahar city mayor was killed in a suicide bomb attack on Wednesday, just two weeks after the assassination of Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s brother in the same city created a power vacuum in the country’s volatile south.
Mayor Ghulam Haidar Hamidi was killed and another person wounded when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives in a corridor near Hamidi’s office, said Zalmay Ayoubi, the spokesman for the Kandahar provincial governor.
“It appears the bomber was carrying the bomb in his turban,” Ayoubi said.
Volatile Kandahar province is the Taliban’s birthplace and a focus of recent efforts by a surge of U.S. troops to turn the tide against the insurgency in the decade-long war. It was the site of more than half of all targeted killings in Afghanistan between April and June, according to a U.N. report.
Two of Hamidi’s deputy mayors were killed in attacks by insurgents last year.
Kandahar Police Chief Abdul Razaq said Hamidi was meeting elders from a district of Kandahar city when one of them got close to the mayor and detonated a bomb hidden in his turban.
The mayor wanted to speak with the elders after they accused city staff of killing a woman and two children when they destroyed some houses and shops in their district on Tuesday, Razaq said. The buildings were unplanned, he said.
Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi initially said it was too early to tell what had happened but later claimed responsibility for killing Hamidi on behalf of the militant Islamist group.
Ahmadi said the mayor had been on the Taliban’s hit-list and that the main motivation for the attack was the deaths of the woman and children on Tuesday when the buildings were destroyed.
The Taliban are normally very quick to claim responsibility for the deaths of high-profile political figures.
No rush to judgment
U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker strongly condemned the killing of Hamidi, but warned there should not be a rush to judgment over who carried out the attack.
“There was a demonstration in front of the mayor’s office over a road-building incident that resulted in the deaths of one or two young girls. This could turn out to be a murder that didn’t have anything to do with the Taliban,” he said.
“It is another indication again of both the challenges Afghanistan faces, but also the extraordinary resilience of the Afghan government and people,” he said.
Hamidi’s death comes at a time when experts say a dangerous power vacuum has been created in Afghanistan’s south by the assassination of Karzai’s brother Ahmad Wali Karzai.
Ahmad Wali Karzai was head of the Kandahar Provincial Council, a largely consultative role, but his power came from his family and tribal connections, and his fortune. He was killed by a guard at his home in Kandahar city on July 12.
Then at his funeral service, a suicide attacker who also appeared to have concealed explosives inside his turban killed a senior cleric and at least four other people.
Hamidi had been mayor of Kandahar since 2007, when he was appointed by president Karzai, a long-time friend, according to a December 2010 profile by Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung national newspaper.
It said Hamidi had survived several attempts on his life.
He spent 20 years living in the United States and was working as an accountant in a travel agency in Alexandria, Virginia, before moving back to Afghanistan to take up the post, the profile said.