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Suicide bomber kills 4 at memorial for Karzai relative

The Kandahar attack could mark the start of a power struggle after the death of Ahmed Wali Karzai — which in turn could complicate the U.S. troop drawdown.

July 14, 2011|By Laura King | Los Angeles Times
  • Afghan President Karzai arrives at a joint news conference with his French counterpart, Nicolas Sarkozy, at the presidential palace in Kabul.
Afghan President Karzai arrives at a joint news conference with his French… (Ahmad Masood, Reuters )

KABUL, Afghanistan — A suicide bomber struck a Kandahar mosque where a memorial service was being held Thursday for the assassinated half brother of President Hamid Karzai. The attack killed at least four people and could mark the start of a violent power struggle in the wake of Ahmed Wali Karzai's death.

A number of high-ranking officials were present at the time of the attack, according to the Kandahar provincial government. The dead included a prominent cleric and a child, and 15 other people were injured, the Interior Ministry said.

President Karzai was not at the service; he had returned to the capital, Kabul, after his half brother's turbulent funeral Wednesday. At the burial in the family's ancestral village outside Kandahar, the Afghan leader wept and wailed aloud, and at one point climbed into the open grave before making an emotional appeal for an end to violence.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Thursday's bombing. The Taliban claimed that the man who shot Ahmed Wali Karzai dead in his home Tuesday had acted at insurgents' behest, but others blamed a personal feud. The assailant, a police commander and a trusted family associate, was himself fatally shot moments after killing the younger Karzai, who wielded enormous power in southern Afghanistan.

Authorities said the bomber who carried out Thursday's attack apparently managed to slip into the mosque among the throng of mourners paying their respects. A day earlier, President Karzai anointed another half brother, Shah Wali Karzai, as the slain man's successor.

Many observers believe that Shah Wali Karzai can adequately carry out duties as the head of his family and tribe, but that it would be extremely difficult for him to assume meaningful control of Ahmed Wali Karzai's lucrative empire, built on a complex network of tribal connections and thought to have included some illicit dealings.

U.S. military officials had relied heavily on Karzai's clout and his ability to serve as an interlocutor with the Taliban. The power vacuum in Kandahar is expected to complicate American efforts to establish order in the south as a U.S. troop drawdown begins.

laura.king@latimes.com

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