Updated July 12, 2011; 4 am ET.

Ahmed Wali Karzai, the younger brother of the Afghan president and a powerful figure in the deeply troubled southern province of Kandahar, was assassinated on Tuesday, officials said.

Initial details were sketchy, but a family friend, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP that Wali Karzai had been killed by a bodyguard while entertaining guests at home.

"We can confirm he has been martyred," Kandahar provincial government spokesman Zalmay Ayubi told AFP, providing no further details.

A health official, also speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information, said Wali Karzai had been shot dead.

The assassination came as Afghan President Hamid Karzai was to hold talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, on a surprise visit to Afghanistan where he announced that Paris would recall 1,000 soldiers by the end of next year.

Wali Karzai, head of Kandahar's provincial council, was long a deeply controversial figure in Afghanistan, dogged by allegations of unsavoury links to Afghanistan's lucrative opium trade and private security firms.

American documents leaked by Internet whistleblower WikiLeaks late last year also painted him as a corrupt drugs baron, but Western officials always kept quiet in public on the president's younger half brother's tainted record.