The top security leadership of Afghanistan’s Kandahar has been assassinated in a brazen gun attack claimed by the Taliban, leaving a power vacuum in the crucial province ahead of Saturday’s elections.
General Abdul Raziq, one of Afghanistan’s most powerful security officials, was killed along with Kandahar‘s intelligence chief, Abdul Mohmin, when a bodyguard opened fire after a meeting in the southern province, officials said.
Keep readinglist of 4 items
Deputy provincial governor Agha Lala Dastageri said Kandahar Governor Zalmai Wesa also died of his wounds after being taken to a local hospital, although security officials in the capital maintained Wesa was wounded but survived.
Citing US military officials, TOLOnews reported that Wesa survived the attack after undergoing surgery, adding that he is in stable condition.
General Scott Miller, the top US commander in Afghanistan who had been at the meeting with Raziq only moments earlier, was also uninjured in the attack.
In their claim of responsibility, the Taliban said they had targeted both Miller and Raziq, who had a fearsome reputation as a ruthless opponent of the armed group.
The killing of Raziq is a major blow to the Afghan government ahead of parliamentary elections on October 20, which the Taliban have vowed to disrupt.
Al Jazeera’s Hashem Ahelbarra, reporting from Kabul, said two US official were also wounded in the attack.
“There was a meeting between the US top commander in Afghanistan Scot Miller and top government representatives in Kandahar. After that meeting, there was gunfire inside the governor’s compound.
“In that gunfire, the intelligence chief, and the top police commander were killed. Two Americans were injured,” Ahelbarra reported.
The Taliban have managed to infiltrate the most secure government meetings on multiple occasions this year, striking at the heart of its command.
“The brutal police chief of Kandahar has been killed along several other officials,” a Taliban statement said.
Raziq was criticised by human rights groups but highly respected by US officers who saw him as one of Afghanistan’s most effective leaders, largely responsible for keeping Kandahar province under control.
A flamboyant commander, he had survived several attempts on his life over many years and narrowly escaped an attack last year in which five diplomats from the United Arab Emirates were killed in Kandahar.
NATO spokesperson Colonel Knut Peters said Miller, who took command of US and forces and the NATO-led Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan last month, was uninjured but he confirmed that two Americans were wounded in the crossfire.