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Suicide Bomber Kills Kandahar Mayor (Second such death this month)
2011-07-27 0:00

By Taimoor Shah | NYTimes.com

In a further strike against the authorities in war-torn southern Afghanistan, the mayor of Kandahar was killed in his office on Wednesday when a suicide bomber detonated explosives hidden in his turban, officials said.

The killing heightened concerns that the tenuous security gains in the violent south are unraveling despite months of intensified fighting by NATO and Afghan forces.

The mayor, Ghulam Haider Hamidi, was killed in his office in central Kandahar, and one other person was injured, according to Zalmay Ayoubi, an official spokesman. The Taliban took responsibility for the attack, news agencies reported.

Ghulam Haider Hamidi, left, the mayor of Kandahar, in his office earlier this month. Mr. Hamidi was killed by a suicide bomber on Wednesday.Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

He was the second senior official killed this month after the leader of the Kandahar provincial council, Ahmed Wali Karzai, a half brother of President Hamid Karzai, was assassinated in his compound by a close associate on July 12. Mr. Hamidi, the mayor, had been mentioned as a possible successor to Mr. Karzai as factions jostle to replace him, news reports said.

Mr. Hamidi was close to Ahmed Wali, but many Kandahar residents described him as distant because he had spent many years in the United States.

Mr. Hamidi had launched a contentious campaign to destroy illegal homes in northern Kandahar city. The campaign was strongly resisted by the people who lived there, many of whom had been there for years. A day earlier, there had been a protest and the mayor agreed to meet with the protesters on Wednesday.

The mayor of the southern Afghan city of Kandahar and another civilian were killed by a bomb on Wednesday. Image: Source

The bomber entered the mayor’ s compound with the protesters’ delegation, said Mr. Ayoubi, a spokesman for the Kandahar provincial governor, Toorylai Wesa.

“Mayor Ghulam Haider Hamidi was a real person who was loyal to his people and country,” Mr. Wesa told a news conference. “He knew how to do his job and dedicated his life in the service of the people. He was trying to rebuild Kandahar.”

Kandahar is the only major city in a rural region dominated by the lucrative poppy trade that supplies the world with most of its opium. Billions of dollars have poured in from the American military for security contracts, and billions more from United States and British foreign aid programs.

Read the full article at: nytimes.com

Hamidi survived other assassination attempts, including a March 2009 bombing, which prompted Canadian officials to buy him an armour-plated SUV.

Instead of blaming it on the Taliban, he pointed the finger at powerbrokers and noted the attack against him happened within sight of a police station.

"They put (a) bomb 60 metres from a police checkpoint. How are they coming here?" Hamidi asked in a separate interview last December.
"The municipality office is the only organization that wants to fight corruption. Now those corrupt people want to destroy the municipality office and (don’t want it) to serve the people."

Two of his deputies were assassinated by the Taliban over the last few years, prompting a mass exodus of municipal staff who felt it too dangerous to work for the city.

The mayor’s death has the potential to destabilize Kandahar to a greater extent than the recent murder of Wali Karzai.

Unlike the president’s half-brother, Hamidi was reasonably popular among ordinary Kandaharis because of his willingness to stick a finger in the eye of powerbrokers and foreign governments alike.


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