Hamid Karzai
Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai

An Afghan official says Afghan President Hamid Karzai's half-brother has been killed in southern Afghanistan the Associated Press reported.

Zalmai Ayubi, the spokesman for Kandahar province, says that Ahmad Wali Karzai was shot dead on Tuesday.

"I confirm that Ahmad Wali was killed inside his house," said Zalmay Ayoubi, spokesman for the governor of Kandahar province, where Ahmad Wali Karzai lived and was head of the provincial council.

A cousin of Ahmad Wali Karzai, a provincial health official and a security guard protecting Ahmad Wali Karzai, all speaking on condition of anonymity also confirmed to Reuters that he had been killed.

Many said that Ahmad Wali Karzai, who as the head of the Kandahar provincial council was an important political figurehead, had become a political liability for the Karzai government.

The president's brother had become a symbol of nepotism and was repeatedly criticised and accused of corruption, and of taking part in criminal activities.

Hamid Karzai however always defended his brother and maintained his innocence, whilst dismissing allegations of wrongdoing.

The news came just as French President Nicolas Sarkozy is in Afghanistan and had planned to meet with some of the 4,000 troops France has deployed to the country and as well as the with President Karzai.

Most of the French troops are in the eastern Kapisa province where two French journalists were kidnapped in December 2009 and held by the Taliban for 18 months before being finally freed last month along with their Afghan translator.

Following suit on the U.S and the U.K, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, speaking on France-Info radio on Tuesday, said security has improved in some areas where French forces are deployed, and that it was the right time for Afghan forces to start taking over in these areas. The French troops' full withdrawal should be completed by the summer of 2012.