KABUL, Afghanistan — A powerful cousin of outgoing Afghan President Hamid Karzai was assassinated by a suicide bomber hiding explosives in his cap on Tuesday, a provincial official said. It was the latest attack targeting Afghan power brokers and government officials as insurgents and political factions struggle for power ahead of the withdrawal of foreign combat forces by the end of this year.
Hashmat Khalil Karzai was a staunch supporter of the president and had played an active role in the campaign to choose his cousin’s successor.
The attacker blew himself up while bowing to kiss Karzai’s hand following morning prayers for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr in a reception room at the Karzai family home in the southern province of Kandahar, a provincial government spokesman said.
It was similar to the September 2011 killing of former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who at the time was the leader of a government-appointed peace council seeking reconciliation with militants.
President Karzai condemned the attack. “Just like all other Afghans who are the daily targets of terrorist attacks, our family too is no exception and as every other Afghan, we too will have to bear it,” he said in a statement.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s attack, which comes at a sensitive time in Afghanistan.