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Suicide Bomber Targets Funeral for Afghan Leader's Brother

VOA News July 14, 2011

A suicide bomber has attacked a mosque in Afghanistan's southern city of Kandahar, killing five people during a memorial service for the assassinated half-brother of President Hamid Karzai.

The Interior Ministry said Thursday's blast killed the head of Kandahar province's religious council, Hekmatullah Hekmat. A child was also killed and another 15 people were wounded, including a member of parliament.

Several top federal and provincial officials, including government ministers and lawmakers, were attending the service for President's Karzai's slain brother, Ahmad Wali Karzai, when officials say the bomber detonated explosives hidden in his turban. The government officials were taken to a secure location following the blast.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for Thursday's suicide attack. Elsewhere in Kandahar city, police say another bomb explosion Thursday killed a civilian.

The suicide attack comes a day after Karzai led thousands of mourners at the funeral of Wali Karzai, who was chief of the Kandahar provincial council and a powerful figure in the country's south.

He was shot dead on Tuesday at his home in Kandahar city by a trusted longtime member of his own security team. The man, identified as Sardar Mohammad, was then killed by other guards.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the assassination. But Afghan officials said it is not clear whether Wali Karzai's killing was related to the insurgency or to an internal feud.

Ahmad Wali Karzai was considered the most influential official in southern Afghanistan. Analysts say his death creates a power vacuum and may lead to an increase in violence in the volatile region, where President Karzai relied on his brother to help maintain support among his ethnic Pashtun community.

While Wali Karzai was seen as a key power broker and an ally of the international forces fighting the Taliban, he was also accused of corruption, drug trafficking, and being on the CIA's payroll - allegations he denied.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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