Afghanistan's volatile southern province of Kandahar--the birthplace of the Taliban insurgency--experienced yet another destabilizing blow today when a suicide bomber hiding explosives in his turban assassinated the 65-year-old mayor, Ghulam Haider Hamidi, inside a heavily fortified government building. The attack comes only two weeks after Afghan President Hamid Karzai's half brother Ahmed Wali Karzai--arguably Kandahar's most powerful man--was assassinated by a confidante. In the last few months, Kandahar has also lost a police chief and the head of a religious council--the latter in a July attack that also involved a suicide bomber hiding explosives in his turban. In 2010, two deputy mayors of Kandahar were also gunned down by militants.
The Taliban has claimed responsibility for all these recent assaults, though some are skeptical about the Taliban's involvement. As the AP points out, the "area is rife with tribal rivalries and criminals and it is not yet certain who is behind" the string of killings. In this particular attack, the Taliban told the AP that Hamidi was assassinated to avenge the death of two children who were killed when local officials demolished illegally constructed homes. Hamidi, a U.S. citizen who once worked in the U.S. financial sector, had launched a campaign against warlords and criminals, according to his son-in law.