Taliban source says founder of Haqqani network died almost a year ago of natural causes, buried in Khost *Family members deny reports, say he is alive and well.
Wana/Peshawar: Family members on Friday denied reports of the death of Jalaluddin Haqqani, founder of the fearsome Haqqani militant network blamed for some of Afghanistan’s deadliest suicide attacks.
Haqqani, in his 70s, is reported to have been in ill health in recent years and has given up most day-to-day control of his Taliban-allied militant network to his son, Sirajuddin.
Two other family members insisted Haqqani was not dead after Pakistani media reported his death.
“Maulvi Jalaluddin Haqqani, no doubt, has become aged and suffering from different diseases but by the grace of Allah, he is safe and sound and alive,” a close family member said.
However, a third member of the family said the reports were true. Haqqani “died of a brain haemorrhage a year and half ago. He is buried in the Zadran area of Khost province,” this person told Reuters.
The contradictory reports come a day after the Taliban confirmed that its founder Mullah Mohammed Omar had some time ago, signifying a major shift in Afghanistan’s militant leadership. The Afghan government said he died in 2013.
Mullah Omar’s replacement, Mullah Akhtar Mohammed Mansour, appointed Sirajuddin Haqqani as his deputy, underscoring the links between the Afghan insurgency and the Haqqani network, who are believed to be close to Pakistan’s feared Inter Services Intelligence.
The Haqqanis have been blamed for some of the most spectacular attacks against American targets in Afghanistan, a raid on Kabul’s top hotel, an assassination attempt on then-President Hamid Karzai and a suicide bombing at the Indian Embassy.
Sources, however, say Sirajudin Haqqani, Jalaluddin’s son, has been running the militant network for over a year now, ever since his father’s illness.
News of Jalaluddin’s death comes a mere two days after the announced death of Afghan Taliban’s supreme leader, Mullah Omar.
The Haqqani network was founded by Jalaluddin Haqqani — an Afghan guerrilla leader bankrolled by the United States — to fight Soviet troops in Afghanistan in the 1980s.
In the 1980s, Jalaluddin was close to the CIA and Pakistani intelligence. He allied himself to the Taliban after they took power in Kabul in 1996, serving as a cabinet minister under the militia’s supreme leader, Mullah Omar.
When American troops arrived after the 9/11 attacks, Haqqani sought refuge in Pakistan’s tribal district of North Waziristan and became one of the first anti-US commanders based in the border areas. Jalaluddin had set up a base in North Waziristan following the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, under which he was the minister for border affairs. He used his North Waziristan base to direct the Haqqani network’s operations. The group is accused of being behind some of the deadliest attacks in Afghanistan.
He reportedly had training bases in eastern Afghanistan and was close to al Qaeda. His fighters are known to be active across east and southeast Afghanistan and in the capital Kabul. The network is militarily the most capable of the Afghan Taliban factions and operates independently but remains loyal to Mullah Omar.
Unidentified gunmen attacked and killed Nasiruddin Haqqani, the group’s chief fundraiser and another son of its founder, on the edge of Islamabad in 2013.
Due to his ailment, the militant ‘commander’ had handed over operational command of the Haqqani network to his son, Sirajuddin.
Jalaluddin was also on the UN Sanctions list since January 31, 2001. The provisions of the UNSC resolutions 1267 (1999), and 1333 (2000) applied to him, which, among other things, bar the international travel of listed individuals and prevent any assistance to them.
The Afghan Taliban have confirmed that Jalaluddin Haqqani – the founder of Haqqani Network and father of Afghan Taliban’s naib emir (second in command) Sirajuddin – had died a natural death a year ago, private media reports quoting sources said.
A private TV channel quoting sources reported that the senior Haqqani’s burial took place in Khost province of Afghanistan last year.
Jalaluddin was an ally of Afghan Taliban, whose three out of ten sons were killed in US drone attacks while one was murdered in Islamabad. The United States put the Haqqani network on its terror blacklist in September 2012, and the Pentagon said the group represented a “significant threat” to national security.