The reasons behind the dramatic switch that turned the 35-year-old officer against Ahmed Wali Karzai, perhaps the most powerful figure in southern Afghanistan, are still not understood. But one of Karzai’s brothers and a senior Afghan official said they were now convinced that the Taliban somehow won Mohammad’s allegiance in recent months and convinced him to carry out an assassination on the group’s behalf.
The official said that investigators are trying to determine whether Mohammad was a long-term Taliban sleeper agent or just recently joined the insurgents. A NATO spokesman in Afghanistan referred questions about Karzai’s killing to Afghan authorities.
Mahmood Karzai, one of the president’s brothers, said the family has learned since the assassination that Mohammad traveled to the Pakistani city of Quetta within the past three months to meet with Taliban insurgents. He had also acted erratically in recent weeks, sleeping poorly, changing houses at night, acting suspiciously toward his men and demanding to know who they were talking to on their phones.
“All of a sudden, he changed,” Mahmood Karzai said in an interview Thursday. “This is the work of the Taliban.”
The senior Afghan official, interviewed separately, said he had heard about the Quetta visit but could not confirm its accuracy. He said Mohammad had attended a Pakistani madrassa in his youth before returning to Afghanistan. The senior official said that “the Taliban and the forces behind Taliban’’ were responsible for the killing.
The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the killing, and if it was indeed the group’s work, it would be one more example of the insurgents’ ability to attack even the most closely guarded targets. On Thursday, a man hid a bomb in his turban and killed four people at Ahmed Wali Karzai’s memorial service.
At Mohammad’s home, a relatively spacious concrete dwelling protected by military-style barriers — in a poor village of ancient-looking mud hovels — the police commander’s relatives adamantly denied that he would have worked on behalf of the Taliban. One of his brothers-in-law, Abdul Malik, said that Mohammad had not been in Pakistan for 20 years. On the walls of the sitting room are large photographs of Ahmed Wali Karzai and President Hamid Karzai, men he was devoted to, said his relatives.
“We were just like one family,” said one relative who declined to be named. “Until today, there wasn’t any dispute between us.”
A long history
Mohammad had known the Karzai family for many years and began working with Ahmed Wali Karzai, the leader of Kandahar’s provincial council, after the fall of the Taliban. Mohammad had been opposed to the Taliban’s regime because his village’s close proximity to the Karzai family’s ancestral home village down the road led the Taliban to harass them, according to relatives.