The Kandahar police chief had survived previous attempts on his life. Accused of severe human rights abuses, he was a key figure for the US in the fight against the Taliban. A US commander survived the attack.
One of Afghanistan's most powerful security officials, anti-Taliban strongman and police chief General Abdul Raziq, was killed on Thursday when the governor's bodyguard opened fire.
The attack came at the end of a high-level security meeting. US Forces and NATO Resolute Support Mission commander General Scott Miller, provincial governor Zalmay Wesa and provincial spy chief Abdul Mohmin were also attending. Mohmin and an Afghan journalist are believed to have died, as well as Raziq.
Miller survived the attack. Two Americans and the governor were among 13 people injured.
The Taliban immediately claimed responsibility for the attack and announced via social media that Miller and Raziq were the targets of the shooting. It came just days ahead of the Afghan elections. "The brutal police chief of Kandahar has been killed along with several other officials," the statement read.
An insider attack
Khalid Pashtun, an Afghan parliamentarian from Kandahar, confirmed to DW that Raziq was one of the first to be shot.
"After the meeting ended and as the officials were saying goodbyes, a member of the governor's team of bodyguards opened fire," Pashtun said.
"General Raziq was among the first ones to be shot. The provincial governor, head of intelligence and the commander of the military corps in the region were also shot," he added.
Raziq had been police chief of Kandahar since 2011 and had been accused of severe human rights abuses, including running a secret torture center. The UN committee against torture in 2017 said that he should be prosecuted over allegations of torture and enforced disappearances. He always denied the accusations.
He had been a key figure in the US strategy of securing the southern region against the Taliban.
Raziq narrowly escaped an attack last year in which five diplomats from the United Arab Emirates were killed in Kandahar.
Elections under threat
The recent attack is a blow to the Afghan government as it gears up for parliamentary elections on Saturday, which the Taliban have vowed to disrupt. Some 2,500 candidates are competing for 249 seats in the lower house. So far, ten of them have been killed during the election campaign.
"General Raziq's death will have a huge impact on security and the election in the south because a lot of voters may not feel safe to go to vote," a senior security official commented after the attack.
However, the US military said the attack would have no effect on its military presence aimed at bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table: "This attack will not change US resolve in our South Asia strategy," Defense Department spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Kone Faulkner said. "If anything, it makes us more resolute."
US Defense Minister Jim Mattis called Razeq's death "the loss of a patriot," but he also said the attack would not likely have an impact on security in Kandahar.
"We need to find who's done this," Mattis said. "But right now, we are going toward the election and we will continue to defend the Afghan people."
law/jm (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)