Tue, Jul 19, 2011 - Page 5 News List

Taliban claim killing of adviser

SHADOW:The assassination of Jan Mohammad Khan, seen as a blow to President Karzai, overshadowed the transition of security duties from NATO to Afghani forces in Bamyan

AFP, KABUL

The Taliban yesterday claimed the assassination of a senior adviser to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, marring the start of transition to Afghan security control and the departure of US General David Petraeus.

Jan Mohammad Khan, the former governor of southern Uruzgan Province and a key ally of the embattled president, was killed in a gun attack on his Kabul home, just days after the president’s younger brother was killed in the south.

Khan died with a lawmaker for Uruzgan in the four-hour raid, which the Afghan government said was carried out by two gunmen, who were both killed along with a policeman, before the standoff ended early yesterday.

The president’s brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, the most powerful man in southern Afghanistan and a key US ally, was shot dead by a friend at his home in the southern province of Kandahar last Tuesday, also claimed by the Taliban.

A senior government official speaking anonymously said that Khan’s death was a major blow for the US-backed leader.

“He was very close to the president. His death is as important as Ahmad Wali Karzai’s death,” the official said.

The assassination overshadowed a ceremony held in central Bamyan Province marking the start of the transition of security duties from NATO to Afghans, a process aimed at seeing all foreign combat troops exit by 2014.

Seven parts of the country will be formally transferred over this week, but analysts and parliamentarians have expressed grave doubts over the switch.

NATO is also playing down its significance amid widespread concerns about the ability of Afghan security forces to ward off the Taliban.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed said by telephone from an undisclosed location that the militia was responsible for Khan’s death.

“We made him pay for his deeds,” he said.

Like Karzai, Khan hailed from a powerful family from the Popalzai tribe in Afghanistan’s restive south and had been given the role of senior adviser for tribal issues after being sacked from his governorship over corruption claims.

Experts say Khan had a reputation for brutality and double-dealing with tribal rivals, falsely accusing some of being Taliban, and Dutch forces taking over Uruzgan operations in 2006 insisted on his removal as governor.

Khan escaped an assassination attempt on Aug. 4 last year when a motorcycle bomb exploded by his convoy in the southern province.

Analysts have already said that the killing of Wali Karzai may trigger a turf war for control of the critical southern heartland that could embolden the Taliban and reverse NATO gains.

The deaths come at a critical juncture, after 3,000 Canadian troops ended their combat mission in Kandahar and as Washington last week began troop drawdowns ahead of the 2014 final combat departure date.

A ceremony was held on Sunday to mark the first area to pass control from foreign to local forces and the killings are likely to fuel doubts about the readiness of Afghans to take care of the country.

Last month, the Taliban mounted a brazen attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in the heart of Kabul, leaving 21 people dead.

The relatively peaceful Bamyan is a devoutly anti-Taliban area populated by the ethnic Hazara minority and home to two 6th century Buddhist statues that were blown up by the Islamists during their brutal reign.

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