x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Officials sack key Afghan province governor

The governor of Kandahar province says he has been sacked by the central government.

KANDAHAR // The governor of Afghanistan's key southern Kandahar province said today he had been sacked by the central government and complained that powerful people in his region had been sabotaging his work. Rahmatullah Raufi, a former army general, was appointed as governor of Kandahar province in August, replacing a powerful but controversial former governor, Assadullah Khalid. But after only three months, Mr Raufi told reporters that officials in the capital said he must go.

"Last night I received a call from Kabul saying that you are fired," Mr Raufi said. "Personally I do not want to work either, because some of the powerful people [in Kandahar] were creating problems in my job," Mr Raufi said, without elaborating. He did not identify who in the government told him he was sacked. Barna Karimi, an official with Afghanistan's Independent Directorate for Local Governance in Kabul, confirmed Mr Raufi was fired, but did not provide other details.

The southern provinces are the centre of the Taliban-led insurgency and Kandahar province is the spiritual heartland of the Taliban. The power base of President Hamid Karzai. President Karzai's brother is the head of the provincial council. The province is also Afghanistan's second-leading producer of opium poppies, behind neighbouring Helmand province. In eastern Khost province, a suicide bomber wearing a police uniform detonated explosives he was carrying at the intelligence service building in Khost town today, killing two police and wounding nine other people, officials said.

A car parked next to the building also exploded shortly after the initial blast, said Khost's deputy governor, Taher Khan Sabarai. Two policemen were killed and nine other people were wounded, said Gul Mohammadin Mohammadi, a provincial health department official. The bomber was wearing an Afghan police uniform, said Col Greg Julian, the US military spokesman in Afghanistan. In western Afghanistan gunmen killed two tribal elders yesterday, said Rauf Ahmadi, a police spokesman.

The elders were shot in Herat city, a day after they met the Afghan president in Kabul as part of a delegation of elders from Herat province, Mr Ahmadi said. Two other people in the car they were driving in when attacked were wounded, he said. Mr Ahmadi called the killings "a terrorist act" and said authorities were investigating whether Taliban militants were involved. Separately, in the northern Jowzjan province, Taliban militants ambushed a police convoy yesterday, killing an officer and wounding two other policemen, said Khalil Aminzada, the provincial police chief.

Authorities arrested four suspected Taliban fighters who were involved in the attack, he said. officials. *AP