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Kandahar, Afghanistan • President Hamid Karzai climbed into his slain half-brother's grave Wednesday and sobbed alongside the coffin, mourning the loss of the most powerful figure in southern Afghanistan before appointing another brother to take the man's place.

Ahmed Wali Karzai, the head of the Kandahar provincial council and the president's most powerful emissary in the south, was shot to death Tuesday by a trusted friend at his Kandahar mansion.

"My message for them [the Taliban] is that my countrymen, my brothers, should stop killing their own people," President Karzai said after the funeral, which was attended by thousands of mourners.

Just hours later, a suicide bomb blast killed five French troops in the east of the country.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for both attacks. But Afghan officials cast doubt that the militants really were behind the killing of the president's brother.

Shortly after the funeral, Karzai named another sibling, Shah Wali Karzai, to replace Wali Karzai. The move signaled the importance of continuity in a country where power vacuums are often filled with violent confrontations. Still, the new tribal elder is a relative unknown, and it was unclear if he will be as able an operator as Wali Karzai.

Wali Karzai served as the enforcer of the government's tenuous rule over the ethnic Pashtuns, who also dominate the insurgency.