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Karzai adviser is killed by gunmen

Jan Mohammad Khan was one of the Afghan president’s most trusted allies. Jan Mohammad Khan was one of the Afghan president’s most trusted allies. (Banaras Khan/ AFP/ Getty Images/ File)
By Jack Healy
New York Times / July 18, 2011

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KABUL - A close adviser to President Hamid Karzai who had been a fierce foe of the Taliban in Afghanistan’s south was killed last night after a small team of gunmen stormed his walled home in the capital.

The slain aide, Jan Mohammed Khan, was a former governor of the southern Oruzgan Province who had been one of Karzai’s trusted allies and a regular presence inside the presidential palace. He was killed alongside a member of Parliament from Oruzgan, Mohammed Hosham Watanwal.

The men’s deaths were confirmed by General Mohammed Zahir, a police official in Kabul. A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the attack.

The killings marked another potentially heavy blow for Karzai, coming just days after his powerful half-brother was assassinated by a close associate in southern Afghanistan.

Zahir said police killed one of the gunmen in yesterday’s attack before he could detonate the suicide vest he was wearing, while the other was still barricaded inside the home. The surviving gunman was believed to be alone in the house.

A member of the Kabul police’s antiterrorism unit was also killed in the attack, Zahir said.

Hundreds of police officers, soldiers, and Afghan intelligence officers swarmed the scene in one of Kabul’s more affluent neighborhoods, filling the streets where government officials and businessmen live behind high walls and steel gates, protected by many men with guns.

Sporadic gunfire rang through the dark streets, but it was unclear who was shooting.

The slaying of another Karzai ally from Afghanistan’s still-violent southern belt heightened concerns that militants were attempting to weaken the president’s standing and unravel fragile security gains there after months of intense fighting by NATO and Afghan forces.

Oruzgan sits just to the north of Kandahar Province, the Taliban heartland where Karzai’s half-brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, had been a polarizing but powerful leader.

The Taliban have claimed responsibility for killing Ahmed Karzai, but the motives of the gunmen - who was himself killed - remain unknown.

Imprisoned during the Taliban’s rule, Khan was seen as an eager and bitter foe of insurgents who worked with the NATO-led coalition during his time as governor. But he was dogged by accusations of corruption and failure to provide basic public services, lost his post in 2006 and was brought to Kabul.

A spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force said that Afghan officials had not requested any help from coalition forces.

The attacks occurred as international military forces prepare to withdraw from Afghanistan. The allied coalition announced yesterday that it had turned over control of Bamiyan Province in the center of the country to Afghan police, as part of its plan to allow foreign troops to withdraw in full by the end of 2014.

Bamiyan Province is one of seven areas that will be put under Afghan security control this month in a first round of the transition. Another, Panjshir Province in the east, began being transferred this month. The sectors have had little violence since the overthrow of the Taliban and had little coalition troop presence.

Under the transition timetable, all international combat troops would leave in just over three years. Bamiyan and Panjshir are the only two provinces that will be handed over in their entirety during this month’s transition phase.

Other areas to be handed over are the provincial capitals of Lashkar Gah in the south, Herat in the west, Mazer-e-Sharif in the north and Mehterlam in the east. Afghan forces will also take control of all of Kabul Province except for the Surobi district.

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