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Jim Garamone - American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 22, 2010 - The assassination of the deputy mayor of Kandahar, Afghanistan, as he prayed in a mosque this week reflects the values of a barbaric enemy, the commander of U.S. Central Command said in a statement released yesterday.
Azizullah Yarmal was attending evening prayers April 19 when a death squad entered the mosque and shot him dead before escaping. In his statement, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus said the murder "demonstrated the Taliban's barbarism."
"That they would kill this Afghan leader while he was attending services in a mosque illustrates the Taliban's callous disregard for Afghanistan's values and for Islam itself," the general said. "Through this action, the Taliban demonstrated once again that it is an enemy of Afghanistan that seeks to impose through violence its extremist ideology and oppressive practices on the Afghan people."
Yarmal's assassination was the second cold-blooded Taliban murder of a local Afghan leader in a week. Taliban gunmen also killed Lal Mohammad Khan, a tribal leader in neighboring Helmand province, last week.
In Kabul, NATO Ambassador to Afghanistan Mark Sedwill noted that Yarmal was always pushing for roads, electricity and services for his people.
"That's a man who's trying to serve the people of Afghanistan, and he was killed deliberately by the insurgents in what is no less than a terrorist attack," he said.
The murder came as the Afghan government and security forces, along with coalition forces, seek to make Kandahar secure. The city is the second-largest in Afghanistan, and is the spiritual home of the Pashtu-dominated Taliban. Officials said operations in and around Kandahar don't constitute an offensive in the military sense of the word. Rather, they explained, the Afghan government and coalition personnel are working bring services and infrastructure improvements to the city. The hope is that Afghans will see the Taliban are trying to stop progress and will side with the government.
Regional Command South is the focus of operations in Afghanistan this year. British Maj. Gen. Nick Carter commands the more than 54,500 coalition troops in the region. The bulk of the U.S. 30,000-troop surge will operate in Regional Command South.