Karzai’s Half-Brother Killed in Afghanistan, Heat Wave Hits 23 States

BY News Desk  July 12, 2011 at 8:23 AM EDT

(Video: Karzai Brother Killed by Bodyguard)

Ahmed Wali Karzai, half-brother to Afghan President Hamid Karzai and head of the Kandahar provincial council, was shot and killed by his bodyguard at his home Tuesday. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the assassination, referring to it as one of its most important attacks in the almost decade-long war. The shooter was killed by other members of Ahmed Wali Karzai’s security team.

Karzai was a controversial figure in Afghan politics, serving as a broker for deals between powerful groups in the south. He was accused of corruption, including involvement in the drug trade, but denied the charges.

“This morning my younger brother Ahmed Wali Karzai was murdered in his home. Such is the life of Afghanistan’s people. In the houses of the people of Afghanistan, each of us is suffering and our hope is that, God willing, to remove this suffering from the people of Afghanistan and implement peace and stability,” President Karzai said in a previously scheduled news conference with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

A recent United Nations report showed that half of all assassinations in Afghanistan in recent months have taken place in Kandahar, where NATO forces have been locked in a longstanding battle in one of the Taliban’s key bastions. Amid the NATO campaign, insurgents have stepped up their targeting of government officials and other opponents.

Wali Karzai had previous near misses, including a 2009 attack on his convoy and a bomb explosion near a meeting he was attending in 2008.

23 States Hit by Heat Wave

The National Weather Service issued heat advisories for 23 states Monday that are likely to last through Tuesday, with temperatures expected to soar as high as 115 degrees in some areas of the Midwest and East.

Dallas and Oklahoma City have surpassed 100 degrees for at least 10 straight days. Humidity has pushed the heat index up, meaning those areas with temperatures in the 90s can feel 105.

In Chicago, intense thunderstorms knocked out power to 868,000 homes and businesses Monday, crippling air conditioning during the hot weather. Crews were called in from other states to help perform repairs. The power outage also affected Chicago’s major airports and delayed trains.

Three Abducted in Philippines, Abu Sayyaf Militants Suspected

An American citizen, her son and Philippine nephew were abducted by armed men in the pre-dawn hours Tuesday on the southern island of Basilan.

Gerfa Yeatts Lunsmann, her 14-year-old son and 19-year-old nephew were seized from a house and taken away by motorboat. There has been no ransom demand or contact from the kidnappers.

Abu Sayyaf militants, who are suspected of the crime, are holding at least three others and have been connected to bombing attacks in recent years. Abu Sayyaf is a Muslim separatist group that has been battling to establish its own state. The Philippines is a dominantly Christian nation.

Lunsmann and her husband reportedly live in Virginia, but she traveled to the Philippines without him two weeks ago.

At Least 38 Killed in Suspected Drone Strikes in Pakistan

Three missile strikes, suspected to be from U.S. drones, killed at least 38 suspected insurgents in northwest Pakistan. The strikes hit North and South Waziristan’s tribal areas.

Though not officially acknowledged, drone strikes have increased in recent years against insurgents in hard-to-reach regions in Pakistan. Tension over Pakistan’s efforts to combat extremists in the area have further strained the allies’ relationship. Pakistan has called on the United States to scale back the use of drone strikes.

The lack of campaigns against those areas has caused tension with the United States and NATO. The Associated Press reported, “Pakistan says its troops are stretched too thin by operations in other parts of the country, but many analysts believe the government is hesitant to cross militants with whom it has historical ties and who could be useful allies in Afghanistan after foreign forces withdraw.”