Mohammad, a police commander, turned over one gun to a guard to appear unarmed, then told Karzai he had important information to share. As they entered a private room, he handed Karzai a piece of paper, the U.S. official said, and as he read it, Mohammad opened fire with the second pistol. Mohammad was then gunned down by Karzai’s guards.
The Taliban asserted responsibility for Karzai’s killing, and a U.S. official confirmed that the insurgent group may have influenced Mohammad, who had commanded checkpoints in the Karzai family’s ancestral village. But others were skeptical that insurgents were to blame: Karzai, the Kandahar provincial council chief, had become for many a symbol of the venality of Afghanistan’s new ruling elite, and he had a long list of enemies from his business and political dealings.
The killing underscores the continued vulnerability of Afghan officials as the United States prepares to reduce its military presence, and likely will complicate U.S. efforts to bolster security in southern Afghanistan. Karzai, long dogged by allegations of corruption and involvement in the drug trade, recently had shown more willingness to work with the United States to defeat insurgents and strengthen local government.
“He was the number-one man in Kandahar,” said Mir Wali Khan, a former parliament member from Helmand province who was at Karzai’s house at the time of the shooting. “We expect now the security of Kandahar will get worse, and the fighting among the tribes will grow stronger and stronger.”
The killing shook Afghanistan’s political establishment, which had already been rattled by a string of assassinations of top government officials.
President Karzai learned of the news shortly before he appeared at a news conference with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
“This morning, my younger brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, was martyred at his home,” Karzai said with a strained voice. “This is the life of the people of Afghanistan, and each Afghan family has suffered in such a way.”
By late afternoon, President Karzai’s convoy of more than 20 SUVs roared onto the tarmac of Kabul’s airport for a flight to Kandahar, where a funeral was scheduled for Wednesday morning.
Ahmed Wali Karzai, a father of five children, was born to a prominent family in Kandahar in 1963 and studied economics at Kabul University before leaving Afghanistan after the Soviet invasion, relatives said. He lived in the Netherlands, then moved to Chicago, where he worked long hours at his brother’s restaurant and watched American and Indian films late into the night. In 1987, he moved to Wheaton to live with his father, then returned five years later to Pakistan. He contemplated — along with friends and family members — a return to Afghan political life, which became a reality after the overthrow of the Taliban in late 2001.