President Karzai's younger brother killed in Kandahar
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The younger brother of Afghanistan’s president Hamid Karzai has been assassinated at his home on Tuesday. The Taliban immediately claimed responsibility for the murder of Ahmed Wali Karzai, but Afghan intelligence officials said the Kandahar provincial council chief was killed by a guest.
A senior official with Afghanistan's spy agency says the killer was an old friend visiting him at home. He said the gunman was not searched on arrival because of his close friendship with Karzai.
The assassin, who has been indentified as Sardar Mohammad, was a village elder in Karzai's home village and was shot dead by bodyguards after the assassination.
Wali Karzai was for years a deeply controversial figure, dogged by allegations of unsavoury links to Afghanistan's lucrative opium trade and private security firms.
American documents leaked by Internet whistleblower WikiLeaks late last year painted him as a corrupt drugs baron, lifting the lid on Western thoughts long kept private on the president's younger half brother's tainted record.
Afghanistan is ranked one of the most corrupt countries in the world, where official graft undermines public support for the Western-backed government and is believed to help fuel support for the Taliban insurgency.
News of the assassination comes as France says it is to withdraw around 1,000 soldiers from Afghanistan by the end of 2012. The announcement came during a surprise visit by President Nicolas Sarkozy visit to the country.
“It’s necessary to end the war,” said Sarkozy. “There was never a question of keeping troops in Afghanistan indefinitely,” he added.
He flew into Sarobi district, northeast of Kabul on Tuesday where he was briefed by General Emmanuel Maurin before talking to French soldiers.
France has around 4,000 troops deployed in the country, mostly in Sarobi, Kabul and in the north-eastern Kapisa province.
Later Sarkozy returned to Kabul to meet with top US commander in Afghanistan General David Petraeus and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
This is his third visit to the battle-scarred country since he became President in 2007.