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Kandahar mayor killed by suicide bomber, latest in wave of assassinations

Kandahar's Mayor Ghulam Haider Hamidi is the latest victim in a wave of assassinations of high-profile Afghan government officials that has many Afghans worried about a leadership void.

By Correspondent / July 27, 2011

An unidentified relative of Kandahar slain city mayor, Ghulam Haidar Hamidi, sits next to Hamidi's coffin. Hamidi who was killed by a suicide blast in Kandahar Wedneday, just two weeks after the assassination of Afghan President Hamid Karzai's brother in the same city.

Ahmad Nadeem/Reuters

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Khandahar

A suicide bomber killed the mayor of Kandahar at the municipality building on Wednesday. The most recent killing in a string of high-level assassinations, it has added to concern about leadership deficit in an area that remains fragile despite recent security gains.

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The bomber entered the municipality building with a group of villagers who had come to speak with Mayor Ghulam Haider Hamidi about the demolition of homes built illegally on government land. When the mayor greeted the group, the suicide attacker detonated a bomb hidden inside his turban.

Although the government and NATO-led forces say they are making progress against the militant organization, the ability of killers to reach high-level officials in their homes and offices has shaken many Afghans’ faith in the government.

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the assassination, calling it part of their campaign to kill government officials this summer – although it remains unclear how many of the recent murders they actually conducted.

The loss of Mr. Hamidi, who spoke with the Monitor less than 24 hours before his death, is likely to take a hard toll on southern Afghanistan. He is the third official to be murdered in Kandahar in as many months and he is remembered by many to have been one of the region’s most honest political brokers.

“I’m here to work for Kandahar City. I owe this city because I grew up here, I was educated here, I ate from here, I had good times here, and I’m here to pay back the loan to my city,” said Mr. Hamidi on Tuesday afternoon.

String of assassinations

In April Gen. Khan Mohammad Mujahid, police chief of the province, was killed by a suicide bomber in the city’s central police compound.

Earlier this month, Ahmad Wali Karzai, one of the president’s half brothers and a prominent powerbroker in Khandahar, was shot in his home by a member of his inner circle.

The mayor’s death adds to the province’s growing leadership deficit as officials seek to fill the power void left by Ahmad Wali. There was some speculation that Hamidi would replace the current governor in an effort to make up for the loss of the president’s brother.

Who was Hamidi?

Hamidi spent nearly two decades in Virginia, before returning to his native Kandahar City, the second largest city in Afghanistan and the birthplace of the Taliban. When he took on his role as mayor four and a half years ago, the office was marred by allegations of corruption.

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