–Provincial police chief and intelligence chief killed; top US commander Miller escapes unhurt
–Pakistan’s top civil, military leadership condemn attack, reiterate country’s resolve for peace in Afghanistan
–Afghan Interior Ministry denies reports claiming provincial governor also killed
–Taliban claim responsibility for attack on Afghan, US officials
KANDAHAR: General Abdul Razeq, one of Afghanistan’s most powerful security officials, was killed on Thursday when a bodyguard opened fire following a meeting in the governor’s compound in the southern province of Kandahar, officials said.
Gen. Scott Miller, the top US commander in Afghanistan who had been at the meeting with Razeq only moments earlier, was uninjured in the attack, but the local commander of the NDS intelligence service was killed.
Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan and Chief of Amry Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa have condemned the attack, stating that stability in Afghanistan is vital for peace in the region.
“The people and the security forces of Afghanistan have been paying a heavy price due to continued instability and threats from the enemies of peace,” the premier said in a statement issued here. He added that Pakistan stood by the government and people of Afghanistan in their quest for lasting peace and stability.
PM Khan also said that Pakistan suffered similar attacks during its own electoral process and could feel the pain of the people of the neighbouring country.
“Wish to see Afghan and other security forces succeeding to bring an end to this prolonged violence in Afghanistan,” COAS Gen Bajwa said.
Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) quoted the army chief as saying that peace in Afghanistan is essential for peace in the region. “We will support all initiatives towards this end.”
According to reports, Provincial Governor Zalmai Weesa was also killed in the attack; however, Afghan Interior Ministry has said that he was wounded and is being treated in a hospital.
TALIBAN CLAIM RESPONSIBILITY:
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying they had targeted both Miller and Razeq, who had a fearsome reputation as a ruthless opponent of the insurgents. The attack was a devastating blow to the Afghan government ahead of parliamentary elections on Saturday, which the Taliban have vowed to disrupt.
“The brutal police chief of Kandahar has been killed along with several other officials,” a Taliban statement said.
The attacker was apparently a man wearing the uniform of an Afghan soldier, who opened fire as the officials were in the governor’s compound following a security meeting about crucial parliamentary elections on Saturday.
Several current and former officials lamented the death of Abdul Razeq, 39. He was criticised by human rights groups but highly respected by US officers who saw him as one of Afghanistan’s most effective leaders, largely responsible for keeping Kandahar province under control.
A flamboyant commander, he had survived several attempts on his life over many years and narrowly escaped an attack last year in which five diplomats from the United Arab Emirates were killed in Kandahar.
Officials said one of the governor’s bodyguards opened fire on Razeq as he came out of the meeting with Miller and other officials, severely wounding him and several other senior officials including the governor.
“Provincial officials including the governor, the police chief and other officials were accompanying the foreign guests to the plane when the gunshots happened,” said Said Jan Khakrezwal, the head of the provincial council.
NATO spokesman Colonel Knut Peters said Miller, who took command of U.S. and forces and the NATO-led Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan last month, was uninjured but two Americans were wounded in the crossfire.
After the attack, the city was “full of military forces” as per a witness. “They don’t allow anyone to come out of their houses,” he told agencies.
Afghanistan is on high alert ahead of the long-delayed legislative elections, scheduled for October 20, after the Taliban pledged to attack the ballot. More than 2,500 candidates are competing for 249 seats in the lower house, including doctors, mullahs, and the sons of former warlords.
Update: A high ranking official confirmed to @Mashaalradio that Kandahar police chief & strongman General Abdul Raziq, Kandahar NDS Chief & Kandahar governor killed. The gunfire took place after a meeting between @Commander_RS & Afghan officials. Miller is unhurt. #Afghanistan https://t.co/kP52AywT0G
— Bashir Ahmad Gwakh (@bashirgwakh) October 18, 2018
The election process has already been marred by bloody violence, with hundreds killed or wounded in recent months.
At least 10 candidates have been killed so far, including Abdul Jabar Qahraman who was blown up Wednesday by a bomb placed under his sofa in the southern province of Helmand.
The election is seen as a rehearsal for the presidential vote scheduled for April and an important milestone ahead of a UN meeting in Geneva in November where Afghanistan is under pressure to show progress on “democratic processes”.