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Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Afghanistan: gunmen kill Kandahar official praying in mosque

Suspected Taliban gunmen burst into a mosque and gunned down the deputy mayor of Kandahar at his prayers, officials said Tuesday -- a brazen attack that underscored the immense challenges faced by Western forces as they push to restore law and order in the volatile southern city.
Kandahar and its surrounding districts are the focus of an expected drive this spring and summer to try to expel the Taliban and establish credible governance in Afghanistan's second-largest population center. The operation is already in its early stages.
In the meantime, serving as a municipal or provincial official in Kandahar has become one of the country's most hazardous occupations. Azizullah Yarmal, the deputy mayor killed Monday night, was the latest in a roll call of local dignitaries marked for death in recent months by insurgents.
"Measures are being taken to strengthen the government system in Kandahar; therefore the enemy is trying to target government officials to slow this process," said Zalmai Ayubi, a spokesman for the provincial governor.
The assassination took place during evening prayers at the Sadozo Mosque, near one of the city's most crowded markets. Dozens of worshipers were present, but Yarmal was clearly the target. He was shot multiple times, witnesses and officials said. The assailants escaped.
"He didn't have any enemies," said Ayubi. "He was a devout and sociable person."
The attack came less than two months after the slaying of Majid Babai, a popular cultural affairs minister for Kandahar province. Gunmen on a motorbike cut him down Feb. 24 as he walked on a Kandahar street.
"We want Islam and the Taliban", said a red-bearded man the other day. He really has a bad taste...
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