A top Afghan security commander, Kandahar police chief Gen Abdul Raziq, has been shot dead by a bodyguard.
Taliban militants claimed the attack after a high-level meeting inside the governor’s compound, saying they had targeted Gen Raziq and top US commander Gen Scott Miller, who escaped.
The local intelligence head was also killed and the governor was critically injured. Three Americans were hurt.
The attack in Kandahar city comes ahead of elections on Saturday.
In a statement, the Taliban referred to Gen Raziq as a “brutal police chief”. It said it had targeted both him and Gen Miller, but the Pentagon denied that the US commander was among the key targets.
Initial reports said the attacker was killed in an ensuing shoot-out.
The assassination is seen as a hugely significant victory for the Taliban and a major blow to the Afghan and US counter-insurgency campaign.
It is the first time since the 2001 US-led military intervention that the top commander of US/Nato forces has been involved in such an incident.
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the attack would not affect the US military’s movements in Afghanistan.
Afghan and international security officials said Gen Raziq was shot in the back as he left the meeting and walked towards an area where the helicopter taking the US group back to Kabul was coming in to land.
“Provincial officials including the governor, the police chief and other officials were accompanying the foreign guests when the gunshots happened,” said Jan Khakrezwal, head of the Kandahar provincial council.
There are reports that the local army commander also died. Local officials suggested that Gen Miller appeared to have been saved by his body armour. The US military only said that he was uninjured.
At least two hand grenade explosions were also reported.
Gen Miller paid tribute to Gen Raziq, saying he had “lost a great friend”.
Jamal Khashoggi case: Turkish police ‘search forest’
Police in Turkey investigating the alleged killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi have expanded their search, reports say.
Unnamed Turkish officials say his body may have been disposed of in a nearby forest or on farmland.
Mr. Khashoggi disappeared after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October, where Turkish officials allege he was murdered.
Saudi Arabia denies any knowledge of what happened to him.
Samples taken from the Saudi consulate and the consul’s residence during searches this week are being tested for a match with Mr. Khashoggi’s DNA.
Separately, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo strongly denied having listened to an audio recording Turkey says is evidence of Mr. Khashoggi’s murder.
“I’ve heard no tape, I’ve seen no transcript,” he said.
Mr. Pompeo also strongly criticised ABC News, which had earlier quoted a senior Turkish official as saying that he had been given access to the recording.
“This is wrong to do to the fiancé of Khashoggi,” he added. “This is a very serious matter that we’re working diligently on, and so to put out headlines that are factually false does no one any good.”
Turkey has previously said it has audio and video evidence of Mr. Khashoggi’s murder, but these have not been made public.
The incident has caused considerable strain between Riyadh and its Western allies, with US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and UK International Trade Secretary Liam Fox becoming the latest senior figures to pull out of a major investment conference in Riyadh next week.
The summit is being hosted by Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman to promote his reform agenda.
However, a number of major businesses – including Pepsi and EDF – are still intending to go despite growing pressure for a boycott.
Turkish officials believe Mr. Khashoggi was killed by a team of Saudi agents inside the consulate, and his body then removed.
Saudi Arabia has denied the claims, and initially insisted Mr Khashoggi had freely left the embassy.
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