Mayor of Kandahar killed in suicide blast

A view of the damaged windows of the mayor's office in Kandahar south of Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, July 27, 2011. The mayor of Kandahar was assassinated on Wednesday by a suicide bomber who hid explosives in his turban, Afghan officials said. The Taliban say they sent the suicide bomber who killed the mayor of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan. Hamidi was the third major powerbroker from the south to be slain this month. AP Photo/Allauddin Khan

Updated at 3:40 a.m. Eastern.

KABUL, Afghanistan - Afghan officials say a suicide bomber has killed the mayor of Kandahar, just days after the slaying of the president's half brother in this southern Taliban stronghold.

The mayor had been mentioned as a person to replace President Hamid Karzai's powerful half brother, gunned down by a close associate July 12 in his heavily fortified home.

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Wednesday's blast took place at a government building in the heart of Kandahar city.

Zalmai Ayubi, spokesman for Kandahar provincial governor, said one civilian also was killed and another civilian and a security guard were wounded in the explosion.

"The suicide bomber put explosives inside his turban," said Sher Shah Yousafzai, deputy police chief in Kandahar province. "As soon as the mayor came to work, the attacker detonated his explosives."

Bismullah Afghan Mal, a member of the upper house of parliament from Kandahar, confirmed the mayor's death. Kandahar police officials said the mayor traveled on Tuesday to a district in the city where there was a dispute about the construction of houses. They said the attacker infiltrated the group that came on Wednesday to talk to the mayor about that issue.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Wednesday's bombing, but suspicion would fall quickly on the Afghan Taliban.

The Taliban issued a statement claiming responsibility for the attack earlier in the month which killed Ahmed Wali Karzai. The militant group said he was killed because he cooperated with U.S., British and Canadian forces in the country's south.

Wednesday's assassination of Hamidi comes as an extensive report by a Harvard researcher suggests in the strongest terms heard to date that Pakistan's powerful spy agency, the ISI, and the country's military, give direct support and cover to the Taliban and another major militant group which operates inside Afghanistan.

The report's author, Matt Waldman, says numerous current and former commanders from the Taliban and the powerful Haqqani network were interviewed for his report, and they all paint a very clear picture of direct and extensive support from the ISI.

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Wali Karzai's assassination set off a power struggle in Kandahar and raised doubts about stability in a critical area for the U.S.-led war effort.

The man who shot Wali Karzai was from his own tribe and hometown and traveled with and worked beside him for seven years.

Afghan officials have said it's not clear whether he was killed by insurgents, as the Taliban claims, or died as the result of an internal dispute.

CBS News terrorism analyst Jere Van Dyk and CBS News senior foreign affairs correspondent Lara Logan have been told by sources in Afghanistan and Washington that Wali Karzai may well have been killed because other power-players in the vital province of Kandahar were becoming uncomfortable with his rising status. (Click on player at left to see Van Dyk's full analysis)

"Although corrupt, he was effective, and he turned the recent (U.S.) surge of troops and money to great effect in Kandahar, where the Taliban have been under great pressure over the past year," said Logan.

Taliban commanders in the region "were not pleased by the growth in Wali Karzai's power - it threatened their hold on their Pashtun heartland."

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