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Suicide Bomber Kills Karzai's Cousin   07/29 06:08

   KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- A cousin and close associate of outgoing Afghan 
President Hamid Karzai was assassinated on Tuesday by a suicide bomber who hid 
his explosives under his turban, a provincial official said.

   The bomber walked up to the home of Hashmat Khalil Karzai to greet him after 
morning prayers for the Eid al-Fitr holiday, and detonated the explosives after 
shaking hands with the president's cousin, said the official.

   No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, which was 
reminiscent of the September 2011 killing of former Afghan President 
Burhanuddin Rabbani, who at the time was the leader of a government-appointed 
peace council seeking reconciliation with militants.

   In that attack, an insurgent posing as a Taliban peace envoy detonated a 
bomb that was hidden in his turban as he met Rabbani at his home in Kabul.

   Tuesday's attack took place at the reception room for guests at the Karzai 
family home in southern Kandahar province's district of Karz, according to Dawa 
Khan Minapal, the provincial governor's spokesman.

   Hashmat, a political figure in his own right, has been his cousin's staunch 
supporter and has also backed former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai's 
bid to succeed President Karzai.

   It was not the first time that Karzai's family members have been targeted. 
The president's powerful half-brother, Ahmad Wali Karzai, who was the head of 
the provincial council, was slain in his home in the city of Kandahar by his 
bodyguard in July 2011.

   The attack comes at a sensitive time in Afghanistan as an audit is taking 
place under international supervision of all 8 million ballots cast last month 
in the second round of the country's presidential election. The process is key 
to insuring a peaceful transfer of power ahead of the withdrawal of most 
foreign troops by the end of the year.

   The two presidential contenders --- Ahmadzai and former Foreign Minister 
Abdullah Abdullah --- are awaiting the results of the audit.

   On Monday, President Karzai appealed for a speedy conclusion to the audit 
that will determine his successor, saying that Afghanistan urgently needs a new 
president.

   His slain cousin Hashmat ran a private security company and was also on 
Ahmadzai's election campaign team as campaign manager for Kandahar.


(KA)


 
 
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