A suicide bomber with explosives packed into his turban killed the mayor of Kandahar on Wednesday -- the latest in a wave of assassinations that claimed the life of President Hamid Karzai's half-brother earlier this month.
The assailant apparently mingled with a crowd of constituents meeting Mayor Ghulam Hamidi, who had lived in the United States for years before returning to Afghanistan and taking up his dangerous post. The blast killed at least one other person, a provincial spokesman said.
Assassinations of senior public servants have become endemic across Afghanistan, but nowhere more so than Kandahar, where a suicide bomber killed the provincial police chief in April. One of the city's deputy mayors was shot dead by assailants in 2010 as he knelt in prayer in a local mosque.
Kandahar, the Taliban movement's birthplace and spiritual home, is considered pivotal to Western efforts to quell the insurgency in Afghanistan's south.
The Afghan president's half-brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, perhaps the most powerful figure in southern Afghanistan, was killed July 12 at his heavily fortified Kandahar compound by a trusted family associate. His death has set off an ongoing power struggle, and officials were studying whether the assassination of the mayor -- considered an ally of Ahmed Wali Karzai -- was linked somehow to violent rivalries now in play.
American officials, including newly arrived U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker, sought to portray the killing as a sign of desperation on the part of Taliban fighters. But other observers said the insurgents' tactic of murdering government officials was proving lethally effective, sapping confidence in the Karzai administration and frightening qualified people away from public service.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the killing, but the movement nearly always asserts it had a hand in any high-profile attack.