Abdul Ali Shamsi Image Credit: Supplied

KABUL: Abdul Ali Shamsi had already covered a lot of ground before he moved to Kandahar province to become deputy governor a year and a half ago.

Shamsi was at the vanguard of a new generation of Afghan leaders. From an early job as a security guard in Kabul, he became a security expert in Helmand province and moved up in the provincial government there. And he helped found the Afghanistan 1400 youth political movement, starting public campaigns to console victims of violence around the country and to raise support for Afghan governance.

“These efforts have two impacts: One is we stand up against things we believe are wrong, but the other more important factor is we project courage,” he told The Guardian newspaper a few years ago, as he was spearheading an effort to clean up and reopen a lakeside picnic spot in Kabul after a Taliban attack. “We enable people to stand up against violence, people who in many ways have been passive because of fears instilled among the population.”

On Tuesday, Shamsi, 38, became a victim of the kind of violence he had helped others withstand, killed along with 10 other people when explosives placed within the Kandahar governor’s guesthouse detonated during a reception for visiting Arab officials.

He was the third Kandahar deputy governor to be killed in the line of duty in just a few years, and he knew, in taking the job, that he would be just as much a target as his two predecessors — one a young poet and writer who was gunned down in a university classroom and, before that, an engineer who was killed by a suicide bomber on his way to work.

Among the dead were an Afghan senator and a member of parliament, five officials from the United Arab Emirates and an Afghan envoy to the United States, according to officials. Eighteen others were wounded.

The governor of Kandahar, Humayoon Azizi, and the ambassador of the United Arab Emirates, Juma Mohammad Abdullah Al Kaabi, were among the wounded, said General Abdul Raziq, the security chief of Kandahar province. The UAE officials were in Kandahar to carry out humanitarian, educational and development projects.

Gen Raziq said an investigation into the attack was starting, and that the national security adviser was coming to Kandahar to lead the effort. In an interview, the police commander said the guesthouse had been under construction for months, with about three dozen workers coming to the site each day, raising the possibility that explosives could have been smuggled in that way.

“We have detained several people who were working there, and they are under investigation,” Raziq said.

The General, who has survived dozens of attacks himself, barely escaped this one. He said he had walked out of the hall to offer his evening prayers in the next room when the explosives went off.

“I wasn’t finished with my prayers when the loud explosion occurred,” Raziq said. “It shook the whole building, blew out the windows, and the entire hall was in flames that were out of control.”

Many of the bodies were burnt beyond recognition, Afghan officials said. And despite the government formally declaring Shamsi among the dead, his brother, Fazal Bari Shamsi, said the family had yet to receive the body, which was awaiting DNA testing for identification.