Karzai ally murdered as Nato begins handover

Gunmen strapped with explosives killed a close adviser to Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul yesterday, as Nato's transfer of security in Afghanistan to the country's own forces got off to an inauspicious start.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the killing of Jan Mohammed Khan. Mohammed Hashem Watanwal, a member of parliament who was visiting Mr Kahn, also died in the attack. The deaths 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.

Earlier, a ceremony in central Bamian province that had been intended as a public-relations stunt was instead kept secret amid fears for the security of guests. The ceremony saw government ministers and foreign ambassadors fly from Kabul to Bamian, one of the most peaceful corners of Afghanistan, for what was meant to be a celebration of the Afghan government's ability to protect itself and its citizens. Yet the event was not announced in advance and did not run live on television.

Abdulrahman Ahmadi, the provincial governor's spokesman, told Reuters later: "Bamian hasn't been suffering from any security threats... the process will go on very smoothly."