Kabul: Gunmen strapped with explosives killed a close adviser to Afghan President Hamid Karzai and a member of Parliament on Sunday in another insurgent strike against the Afghan leader`s inner circle.
Jan Mohammed Khan was an adviser to Karzai on tribal issues and was close to the President, a fellow Pashtun.
His killing, which the Taliban claimed responsibility for, came less than a week after the assassination of Ahmed Wali Karzai, the President`s half brother and one of the most powerful men in southern Afghanistan.
Two men wearing suicide bomb vests and armed with guns attacked Khan`s home in the western Kabul district of Karti Char, said Defense Ministry official General Zahir Wardak. Khan, who was governor of the Pashtun-dominated Uruzgan province in the south from 2002 until March 2006, was shot along with Uruzgan lawmaker Mohammed Ashim Watanwal, the official said.
Police killed one of the attackers before he could detonate his explosives, while the other was still barricaded inside the home, said the head of the Kabul police investigation unit, Mohammed Zahir. A member of the police`s anti-terrorism unit was also killed, he added. The surviving gunman was alone in the house, Zahir said.
The assassination came as international military forces handed over security for Bamiyan province to Afghan security forces, part of a transition process in which seven areas are to be handed over to Karzai`s government this month. It also came one day before General David Petraeus, the top NATO commander in Afghanistan, hands over responsibility for the military campaign in Afghanistan to his replacement, Lt Gen John Allen.
It was unclear how influential Khan was with Karzai, but he was thought to wield considerable influence in Uruzgan.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack on behalf of the insurgent group.
Mujahid said the Taliban killed Khan because he was assisting coalition forces in carrying out night raids against Afghans. The controversial raids carried out by NATO forces have been highly effective in capturing or killing hundreds of Taliban fighters and midlevel commanders. Karzai has complained the raids anger many Afghans who are mistakenly targeted.
"He was cooperating and helping the American forces," Mujahid said in an e-mailed statement.
The Taliban had also claimed responsibility for Tuesday`s killing of Karzai`s half brother, who was shot dead by a close associate. Wali Karzai`s death left the President without an influential ally to balance the interests of the southern region`s tribal and political leaders, drug runners, insurgents and militias.
Sunday`s violence marred the handover of control of a peaceful province in the center of the country to Afghan police, another step in a transition that will allow foreign troops to withdraw in full by the end of 2014.
Bamiyan province is one of seven areas going to Afghan security control this month in a first round of the transition. Another, Panjshir province in the east, began being transferred earlier this month. Both places have seen little to no fighting since the overthrow of the Taliban nearly 10 years ago and barely had any coalition troop presence.
The transition to Afghan control will allow international military forces to slowly start withdrawing from Afghanistan until all combat troops are gone in just over three years.
Bamiyan only had a small foreign troop contingent from New Zealand. Bamiyan and Panjshir are the only two provinces that will be handed over in their entirety during this month`s transition phase.
Other areas to be handed over are the provincial capitals of Lashkar Gah in southern Afghanistan, Herat in the west, Mazer-e-Sharif in the north and Mehterlam in the east. Afghan forces will also take control of all of Kabul province except for the restive Surobi district.
In other violence on Sunday, Afghan and NATO troops fought an overnight gunbattle with Taliban insurgents and called in an airstrike on the building where the fighters were holed up. At least 13 Taliban were killed.
Also on Sunday, NATO said three of its service members died. One was killed by a roadside bomb in eastern Afghanistan and two were killed by a similar device in the south. It did not release their nationalities or any further details. The deaths bring the total number of coalition forces killed this month to 34.