KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — A suicide bomber hiding explosives in his turban assassinated the mayor of Kandahar on Wednesday, just two weeks after President Hamid Karzai’s powerful half-brother was slain in the southern province that is critical to the U.S.-led war effort.
Mayor Ghulam Haider Hamidi, 65, was the third power broker from southern Afghanistan to be killed in just over two weeks, underlining fears of a surge in violence in the wake of the slaying of the president’s half-brother.
The Taliban have claimed responsibility for all three attacks, yet the area is rife with tribal rivalries and criminals, and it is not yet certain who is behind the trio of killings.
Ahmed Wali Karzai was gunned down in his home in Kandahar by a close associate July 12, leaving a power vacuum in Kandahar and dealing a blow to the strength of the president’s support as well as the stability of the south where the Taliban hold the most sway.
Five days later, Mr. Karzai’s inner circle suffered another hit when gunmen killed Jan Mohammad Khan, an adviser to the president on tribal issues and a former governor of Uruzgan province, also in southern Afghanistan.
A member of parliament also was killed in the July 17 attack at Mr. Khan’s home in Kabul.
Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi told the Associated Press that they killed the Kandahar mayor because he had ordered the destruction of homes that city officials claimed had been illegally constructed.
Ahmadi said the mayor was killed to avenge the deaths of two children who were killed during the demolition work.
Kandahar Gov. Tooryalai Wesa said the two children were killed accidentally by a bulldozer knocking down the homes.
The mayor’s son-in-law, Abdullah Khan, said Mr. Hamidi had launched a campaign against warlords and criminals and was particularly harsh on people who took illegal control of property.
Just two days before the killing, he said his father-in-law had ordered several large homes torn down because they had been built illegally.
“I don’t know who did this,” Mr. Khan told the AP in a telephone interview. “From day one I was afraid. Even I wanted to put pressure on him to leave.”
“It is up to the police to investigate,” Mr. Khan said, though he expressed doubt the authorities were up to the task.
The Afghan president denounced the killing, saying in a statement that the murder was executed by “terrorists who don’t want this country to be rebuilt.”