Video: Afghanistan president's brother shot dead by aide
Nato's military mission in southern Afghanistan was thrown into turmoil yesterday after President Hamid Karzai's half-brother was assassinated.
Ahmed Wali Karzai, the most powerful figure in Kandahar province, was shot dead after his killer, a trusted confidant who served the family for at least seven years, requested a private audience.
The gunman was named as Sardar Mohammed, who once operated a series of security checkpoints for Ahmed Wali.
The Taliban claimed the assassin was their agent and described the murder as one of their "biggest achievements" in 10 years of war, but local security sources suggested the killing was driven by a feud.
Ahmed Wali was an enormously powerful businessman and politician who was accused of massive corruption, drug dealing and operating a militia on the orders of the CIA.
But the 50-year-old was also a bulwark of his brother's government in Kandahar, where he chaired the provincial council, and his death leaves a power vacuum across southern Afghanistan.
It also raises questions about whether NATO can accelerate its withdrawal of troops as Wali's death is likely to embolden the Taliban in the Kandahar region.
Hamid Karzai relied on his brother for influence in the south, despite repeated pleas from diplomats to sideline him amid accusations that he was linked to the drug trade and that his abuses were only exacerbating the insurgency.
Opposition politicians accused him of orchestrating a massive vote fraud for Hamid in 2009's presidential election.
The assassin was so trusted, he was able to enter Ahmed Wali's compound without being frisked for weapons. Witnesses said he walked into Wali's guesthouse at around 11am and requested an audience.
Syed Khan Khakrezwal, a provincial council member, said: "We were sitting with Ahmed Wali Karzai in a room when Sardar Mohammad came in and told Wali he wanted to talk to him. Sardar Mohammed took Wali to another room and shot him with a pistol."
Mr Karzai died almost instantly from a shot to the head and one to the chest. Mohammed and up to four bodyguards were killed in a resulting shoot-out.
A spokesman for the Taliban, said: "We assigned Sardar Mohammed to kill him recently and Sardar Mohammed is also martyred."
But security officials questioned the Taliban's role, given they often claim killings to exaggerate their power. (© Daily Telegraph, London)