Afghan politician killed in usually stable area, officials say

Tue Jun 7, 2011 2:50pm GMT

By Qiamuddin Shams

PARWAN, Afghanistan (Reuters) - A leading politician from what is normally one of Afghanistan's most stable regions has been killed, officials said on Tuesday, another blow as NATO-led forces prepare to begin handing over security responsibility to Afghans next month.

The body of Jawad Zuhaak, the head of the provincial council in central Bamiyan province, was found in neighbouring Parwan province on Tuesday, a senior hospital official said.

Zuhaak and his bodyguard had been kidnapped in the Sia Gerd province of Parwan on Friday, police said.

Khwaja Mohammad, the head of the Parwan hospital, said Zuhaak had been shot in the face.

Bamiyan, which came under the world spotlight in 2001 when the Taliban destroyed two giant sandstone Buddhas, is one of seven areas where security responsibility will be transferred formally from foreign troops to Afghan control in the first phase of a gradual transition process due to begin next month.

The process will ultimately lead to the last foreign combat troops leaving Afghanistan by the end of 2014 under a plan agreed to between Afghan and NATO leaders at a summit in Lisbon last December.

Bamiyan and Panjshir, which have long been peaceful anti-Taliban strongholds, are the only provinces that will be handed over in their entirety in the first phase of transition. Both are already largely in Afghan hands.

Other areas include the cities of Herat in the west, Mazar-i-Sharif in the north and Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand in the south, long a Taliban stronghold and still one of the most violent provinces in Afghanistan.   Continued...

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