Monday, May 18, 2009

Afghan president's brother says survives ambush

(Adds Afghan soldiers' attack on civilians, paragraphs 8-9)

KABUL, May 18 (Reuters) - A brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai said on Monday he had been ambushed on the road to Kabul by Taliban insurgents, who killed one of his bodyguards in the early morning attack.

Ahmad Wali Karzai, head of the provincial government council in southern Kandahar province, told Reuters he was roughly an hour's drive from the capital in the volatile district of Sarobi at the time of the assault.

"I am OK and luckily survived the ambush," he said in a telephone interview, adding he considered the attack on the road to eastern Nangarhar province was aimed at him.

"(They) killed one of my bodyguards during an exchange of fire, but I managed to get out," he added.

The younger Karzai also escaped unscathed from an attack on government buildings in his home province last November which killed six and wounded at least 40.

The Taliban, toppled from power by U.S. and Afghan forces in 2001, have been gathering strength in recent years, particularly in the south and east of the country.

U.S. commanders are rushing thousands of reinforcements to take them on in what Washington considers a make-or-break year for a war it now views as its main security priority.

The Defence Ministry said on Monday that three Afghan army soldiers opened fire towards shops in the Nangarhar provincial capital, Jalalabad, killing three shopkeepers and wounding a fourth. It gave no further explanation.

Those involved have been arrested and are being interrogated, and the Defence Ministry promised strong punishment. (Reporting by Hamid Shalizi; Editing by Emma Graham-Harrison and Paul Tait)

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