Afghan leader's key ally killed by Taliban forces

Kathy Gannon
Sunday 06 April 2003 00:00
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A close ally of Afghan President Hamid Karzai was shot and killed in southern Afghanistan in what appeared to be the latest in a wave of attacks by resurgent Taliban, a provincial government official said yesterday.

Haji Gilani and his nephew were gunned down in the town of Deh Rawood on Thursday night as they walked past their home, said Dad Mullah, a spokesman for the Uruzgan government.

He said six gunmen shot the two men and fled. No arrests have been made and police said they were investigating. But Mr Mullah said there was no immediate evidence of a personal feud and he suspected Taliban operatives were behind the killing.

Gilani was the first man to give Mr Karzai shelter in Uruzgan province as he launched his anti-Taliban revolt weeks before the religious militia collapsed under heavy US bombing in late 2001.

Mr Karzai entered Afghanistan secretly with only a handful of close followers and relied heavily on anti-Taliban sympathisers for support and protection. He slipped past Taliban checkpoints on the back of motorcycles and spent days hiding in the homes of followers who risked their lives to protect him.

The shooting is the latest in a series of attacks that have racked southern Afghanistan in recent weeks, including the killing of an International Red Cross worker and an ambush on a US military convoy that killed two American servicemen.

There are fears that Taliban remnants are reorganising their forces in an effort to destabilise Mr Karzai's fledgling government. There have been several so-called "night letters" warning Afghans against working with foreigners and threatening those who do with death.

The latest edict by hunted Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar two weeks ago threatened more attacks, declared a jihad against international forces and told Afghans they would be considered enemies if they continued to work with the government. (AP)

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