Afghan President buries assassinated brother
Afghan President Hamid Karzai wept yesterday as he led thousands of mourners at the funeral of his brother, whose assassination could throw southern Afghanistan into renewed instability.
Ahmed Wali Karzai was dogged by allegations of links to the drugs trade and corruption, but his shock killing at home by his own head of security Tuesday deprives Nato and the government of their main ally in the volatile south.
Analysts have warned that his death creates a dangerous power vacuum in Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban militia, where rivals are expected to jockey for influence as the US-led Nato mission starts to withdraw troops.
Underlining fears of increased insecurity, two bombs were found along the path of the funeral cortege from Kandahar city to Dand district, where the younger Karzai was buried in the family plot.
Nato troops detonated both devices in controlled explosions, police said.
The governor of neighbouring Helmand province, another bitter battleground against the Taliban, escaped unhurt with his provincial intelligence chief when a bomb attack targeted their convoy en route to the funeral.
Elsewhere in Afghanistan, a suicide bomber killed five French soldiers yesterday – the deadliest attack on French forces since 2008.
At the end of the funeral Mr Karzai renewed his call on the Taliban to make peace, despite the militia’s claim to have recruited the assassin.
“Even if the Taliban say they have killed my brother, I call on them, brothers, come make peace,” the President told a crowd of tribal elders and politicians in Kandahar.
Mr Karzai has long sought to persuade the Taliban and other insurgents battling his government to reconcile in an internationally backed process.
The Afghan leader cried openly during the burial in the family village of Karz, at one point climbing inside the grave to help move his brother’s body and kissing his forehead as the corpse was lowered into the ground.
Two trees symbolising patience and strength were planted next to the plot, where Mr Karzai’s ancestors have also been laid to rest.
The President, still in tears, was helped from the graveyard to his armoured car by former Kandahar governor Gul Agha Sherzai and other officials.
Security – already tight in violent Kandahar province – was stepped up significantly for the funeral with police and soldiers deployed en masse, with the main thoroughfares closed to traffic and largely free of pedestrians.
The venue where the corpse was held overnight was taken over by President Karzai’s personal security force, as well as Afghan and US troops who guarded the area with light and heavy weapons, an AFP reporter said.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton telephoned the Afghan president to offer her condolences and said Washington remained “committed to supporting the government and people of Afghanistan in their struggle for peace”.
Speculation has continued to mount about the motive behind the killing of the younger Karzai, who was 49 and the President’s half-brother, by a seemingly trusted aide.
Denying the Taliban’s claims to have recruited the gunman, police and other officials identified the assassin as the long-serving chief of his family’s personal protection force.