3 Top Afghan Leaders Killed in Attack That Misses US Commander
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — In one of the most devastating Taliban assassination strikes of the Afghan war, the entire top leadership of Kandahar Province was wiped out on Thursday in an attack that missed the top American commander, Gen. Austin S. Miller.
The gunfire in the provincial governor’s compound in Kandahar City killed the region’s powerful police chief, Gen. Abdul Raziq, as well as the provincial governor and the intelligence chief, and wounded three Americans, Afghan officials said.
Agha Lalay Datagiri, the deputy governor of Kandahar, confirmed the deaths of General Raziq, Gov. Zalmai Wesa, and the province’s intelligence chief, Gen. Abdul Momin. The American military released a statement confirming that General Miller, who was in the compound at the time of the attack, was not hurt, and that three Americans had been wounded.
Other officials, however, said that the governor’s death was not confirmed, and that he might be wounded. There were also conflicting reports about Gen. Nabi Elham, the police commander for the southern zone with responsibility for several provinces.
In a brief televised message, President Ashraf Ghani said that he had dispatched his intelligence chief and other senior officials to Kandahar to investigate the situation.
“I promise the Afghan people that soon the situation will get normal in Kandahar,” Mr. Ghani said.
It was not clear if there had been more than one gunman, but he suggested that it could have been an insider attack, by a turncoat among the Afghan security personnel there.
“It’s hard to know who opened fire, but it comes from security guards accompanying the officials,” Mr. Datagiri said. “It’s believed that one of the governor’s guards opened fire, but it is not yet confirmed.”
In a statement, the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it had specifically been aimed at General Raziq and General Miller.
Coming just 48 hours before nationwide parliamentary elections, the loss of the Kandahar leadership casts a further shadow on a political season already marred by violence. One-third of polling stations will not open because of security, and at least 10 candidates and dozens of their supporters have been killed. The Taliban have threatened to attack polling places on Saturday.
Another major attack last year inside the Kandahar governor’s office took a heavy toll on officials, killing a deputy governor, the ambassador of the United Arab Emirates, and members of Parliament. The governor at the time survived with burns and wounds. General Raziq had just stepped out of the room.
General Raziq was widely considered to be an indispensable security chief with influence across critical areas of southern Afghanistan, in the Taliban heartland. He was valued by American commanders as a fierce ally against the insurgents, and survived dozens of attempts on his life.
But human rights advocates criticized him for brutal tactics that at times swept innocent civilians up as well as militants.
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