The half-brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai was assassinated today by a close associate at his home in Kandahar, Afghan officials said.
Ahmed Wali Karzai, a highly influential politician in southern Afghanistan as the head of the Kandahar Provincial Council, was gunned down by a mid-level security commander identified as Sardar Mohammad, according to officials and one person who was in the home at the time of the murder.
The person in the home told ABC News Mohammad lured Karzai away from guests he had received in his home by saying he needed to speak to him in private. Once behind closed doors, Mohammad opened fire. Responding bodyguards shot Mohammad dead, but Karzai's wounds were fatal and he died on the way to the hospital, the source said.
At a press conference held with visiting French President Nicholas Sarkozy in Kabul, President Karzai betrayed little emotion when informing his people of his sibling's death.
"My younger brother was martyred in his house today. This is the life of all Afghan people, I hope these miseries which every Afghan family faces will one day end," Karzai said, according to a report by Al Jazeera.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack and a spokesperson for the terror organization told ABC News they had ordered Mohammad to carry out the murder "a long time ago." The Afghan Interior Ministry reportedly said an investigation is underway and several people who were guarding the home have been taken into custody.
In a recent interview with the BBC, Ahmed Wali Karzai said there were threats against him "everyday" from the Taliban.
The U.S. Embassy in Kabul issued a statement in which it said the U.S. "condemns [Karzai's murder] in the strongest terms" and extended condolences to the people of Kandahar and to Karzai's family.
Ahmed Wali Karzai was as controversial a figure as he was powerful in Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban. Karzai was plagued by allegations of corruption and in 2009, he was accused of being a paid asset to the CIA and heavily involved in the Afghan drug trade. Karzai denied both allegations.