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Afghan president's brother attacked, unharmed

world Updated: May 18, 2009 17:20 IST

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Gunmen fired rockets and machine guns at a motorcade carrying the brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Monday in an apparent assassination attempt, the brother said. A bodyguard was killed.

Ahmad Wali Karzai said his convoy was on the way to Kabul from eastern Nangarhar province when gunmen attacked them in Surobi, a mountainous area about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the capital. He was not harmed.

Wali Karzai was returning from a trip to the eastern city of Jalalabad, where he went on Sunday to thank provincial Gov. Gul Agha Sherzai for not running against his brother in this year's presidential election.

Rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons fire rained down on the cars after they had entered the Surobi pass, said Abdul Jalal Shamal, the Surobi district police chief.

"All the sudden we heard shooting," Wali Karzai said, adding that two police officers fell out of the pickup truck following his vehicle. He said he realized one of the bodyguards had been shot when they went back to collect the officers, who were unharmed. They rushed the bodyguard to hospital but he died while being treated. Wali Karzai said he was certain that he was the target of the attack because many people would have known he had been visiting Sherzai and because the gunmen only fired on the front of the convoy where he was riding. Members of parliament and other government officials who were part of the delegation were riding further back in the convoy, he said.

"They didn't target anyone else," said Wali Karzai. The convoy continued on to Kabul after the incident.

Wali Karzai, who is the president of the provincial council of the southern Kandahar province, did not comment on who might want to kill him.

Kandahar province is the spiritual birthplace of the Taliban, the hard-line Islamic militiamen who ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 and are now waging an insurgency against President Karzai's government. The president has escaped several assassination attempts himself since he took power after the fall of the Taliban regime. Wali Karzai said Sherzai's decision to bow out of the presidential race would prevent potential tribal clashes in the southern region where both Sherzai and the president hail from. Sherzai had been seen as one of the few serious rivals to Karzai's re-election hopes.