Tribal elder and six police escorts killed in Afghanistan’s south
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REPORTING FROM KABUL, AFGHANISTAN -- Suspected insurgents Wednesday set off a remote-controlled bomb that killed an anti-Taliban tribal leader, together with six police officers assigned to escort him, authorities in Kandahar province said.
The apparent assassination took place in Zhari, one of several strategic districts ringing the city of Kandahar, where U.S. forces last year led a major offensive to dislodge the Taliban.
The slain tribal elder was Abdul Wali Khan, a member of the district’s development council. He was returning to his home district after a visit to Kandahar city. Provincial spokesman Zalmay Ayubi said police believed that Khan was specifically targeted, likely because of his anti-Taliban stance.
The killing came a day after NATO’s International Security Assistance Force claimed that Taliban fighters had tried unsuccessfully during the “fighting season” now winding down to reclaim strongholds in Helmand and Kandahar provinces.
Even if the insurgents have been unable to regain lost territory, however, assassinations serve the purpose of intimidating the population and frightening away people qualified to serve as local government leaders.
The military has also cited greater freedom of movement for villagers living in the districts surrounding Kandahar, but the fact that Khan had been assigned a six-member police escort underscored the insurgents’ ability to stage attacks on rural roadways.
Kandahar city this year has been the scene of several high-profile assassinations, including those of the provincial police chief, who was killed in April, and Ahmed Wali Karzai, the half-brother of President Hamid Karzai, slain by a longtime family associate.
Scores of lower-level figures also have been targeted, particularly if they assist the Afghan government and the Western military.
Khan “worked very hard on development projects, but also worked to defeat and annihilate the Taliban,” said Ayubi, the provincial spokesman.
-- Laura King