Adviser To Afghan President Killed In Attack

In Afghanistan, a close adviser to President Hamid Karzai has been killed. It was the second killing in recent days of one of Karzai's allies. Last week, Karzia's half-brother was killed in the southern city of Kandahar.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Another close associate of Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai was killed over the weekend. It happened last night in the capital city Kabul. Even the politicians with their security guards are not safe in Afghanistan right now. NPR's Quil Lawrence is following the story.

Hi, Quil.

QUIL LAWRENCE: Hello, Steve.

INSKEEP: The man's name was Jan Mohammed Khan. He's been Karzai's ally for many years. How was he killed?

LAWRENCE: A team of gunmen. First it was reported they were suicide bombers. But now it appears in the details that've been trickling out this morning that they were just gunmen who stormed his house in West Kabul. There was a shootout with police that took all night into the early morning. And at the end of it, Jan Mohammed Khan, the former provincial governor of Uruzgan and an Afghan parliamentarian from Uruzgan were dead.

INSKEEP: Uruzgan, that's a province in the central part of the country where he'd been a dominant figure.

When you say a shootout with police that took all night, does that mean it took a while for the attackers to fight their way into his house and they had that time to do it?

LAWRENCE: It was more like they got in and then the police were fighting with one of the surviving gunmen for many hours this morning. A lot of politicians live in that area. It's near the parliament. It had been considered relatively safe. But with most of the places in Kabul that had been considered relatively safe, we've seen that that Taliban insurgents who are claiming credit for this attack are able to penetrate those areas as well.

INSKEEP: And we should mention that this is the second Karzai associate to be killed in about a week. Last week, President Karzai's half-brother Ahmad Wali Karzai was killed in the southern city of Kandahar. Is there any link between these two cases?

LAWRENCE: Well, the Taliban are claiming to have killed both men. Although there's a lot more doubt that they might've killed Ahmad Wali Karzai, the president's half-brother. He was assassinated by a close family friend.

But both men had a reputation for large scale corruption. Jan Mohammed Khan, the former governor, had been removed from that post in 2006 when international troops essentially insisted that they couldn't do their job with such corruption in the governor's office.

The Taliban also claimed the Khan was helping American Special Forces pick targets for night raids, which are especially unpopular in ethnic Pashtun parts of the country like Uruzgan.

But as with Ahmad Wali Karzai, the president's half brother, you have the president mourning a close ally and perhaps U.S. commanders saying that they've lost a strategic partner, but you have many, many Afghan civilians who are frankly not terribly sad to see the departure of a politician that they consider to be corrupt and predatory.

INSKEEP: Which suggests the multiple motives that might lie behind the attacks. But what does it say about security in Afghanistan, that even the guys on top, the guys who have security, cannot remain secure.

LAWRENCE: American commanders here talk about the gains that they've made in pushing the Taliban out of key areas in the country. They say, though, as a result the insurgents are going after softer targets - civilians who are in any way connected with the government. But, as you can see, these targets aren't so soft.

We still don't know, as I said, about the president's brother. But the Taliban have been able to target people like Mr. Khan last night who lived in a heavily fortified compound. At the end of May, a suicide bomber killed the head of police for all of northern Afghanistan - General Mohammad Daud.

So the Taliban are successfully hitting the most protected places and individuals in the country. And their target list seems to consist of people who've opposed the Taliban in the past. Mr. Khan, who was killed last night, was imprisoned for several years under Taliban rule. And maybe the Taliban are perhaps targeting people who they fear could be effective commanders against them in a conflict to control Afghanistan after U.S. forces leave.

INSKEEP: NPR's Quil Lawrence reporting today from Mazar-e-Sharif in northern Afghanistan.

Quil, thanks very much.

LAWRENCE: Thank you, Steve.

INSKEEP: This is NPR News.

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