/ 27 July 2011

Turban bomb kills mayor of Afghanistan’s Kandahar

Turban Bomb Kills Mayor Of Afghanistan's Kandahar

A suicide bomber killed the mayor of Afghanistan’s Kandahar city on Wednesday, two weeks after the assassination of Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s brother in the same city created a power vacuum in the country’s turbulent south.

The death of Mayor Ghulam Haidar Hamidi is the latest in a string of assassinations of Karzai allies.

While it is unclear if all were the work of insurgents, the killings have stoked instability as foreign troops begin withdrawing ahead of Afghan forces taking full security control by the end of 2014.

Hamidi (65) was killed and another person wounded when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives in a corridor near Hamidi’s office, said Zalmay Ayoubi, the spokesperson for the Kandahar provincial governor.

“It appears the bomber was carrying the bomb in his turban,” Ayoubi said.

Kandahar province is the Taliban’s birthplace and a focus of recent efforts by a surge of US troops to turn the tide against the insurgency in the decade-long war. More than half of all targeted killings in Afghanistan between April and June were in Kandahar, according to a UN 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 spokesperson 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
US Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker 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 couple of days later, a suicide attacker who also appeared to have concealed explosives inside his turban killed a senior cleric — the head of the provincial Ulema council, an influential body of clerics that regulates religious issues — and at least four other people.

A top Karzai adviser, Jan Mohammad Khan, a former governor of southern Uruzgan province, was killed in an insurgent attack on his home in Kabul on July 17, while the police chief of Kandahar province, Khan Mohammad Khan, was killed by an attacker wearing a police uniform in mid-April.

Hamidi had been mayor of Kandahar since 2007 when he was appointed by president Karzai, a long-time friend.

He grew up in Kandahar province, studied at Kabul University and worked at the country’s Ministry of Finance for 13 years, said the Kandahar province media office. He moved to Pakistan and then the United States, where he lived for 20 years.

Hamidi was working as an accountant in a travel agency in Alexandria, Virginia, before moving back to Afghanistan to become Kandahar mayor. He has five daughters and two sons. – Reuters