THE founder of the Haqqani network, one of Afghanistan’s most effective and feared militant groups, has died after a long illness, their affiliates the Afghan Taliban announced yesterday.
Jalaluddin Haqqani, whose son Sirajuddin now heads the brutal group and is also the Taliban’s deputy leader, died “after a long battle with illness,” the Taliban said in a statement.
Jalaluddin “was from among the great distinguished Jihadi personalities of this era,” the Taliban said in a statement posted on Twitter.
During the 1980s the Haqqani figurehead was an Afghan mujahideen commander fighting the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan with the help of the U.S. and Pakistan.
He gained notoriety for his organization and bravery, garnering attention from the CIA and a personal visit from U.S. congressman Charlie Wilson.
A fluent Arabic speaker, Jalaluddin also fostered close ties with Arab jihadists, including Osama bin Laden, who flocked to the region during the war. Later, Jalaluddin became a minister in the Taliban regime.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed said that Haqqani died Monday inside Afghanistan.
He had been paralyzed for the past 10 years and was believed to be in his early 80s.
Given the already leading role played by his son, it is not clear what Jalaluddin’s demise will mean for the extremist group.
The Haqqani network has been blamed for spectacular attacks across Afghanistan since the U.S. invasion.
It is also widely believed to have been behind many of the recent attacks in the capital Kabul that were claimed by the local wing of Islamic State.
Analysts believe it works with IS – which at the same time is involved in a turf war with the Taliban – to avoid blame and political blow back.
Long suspected of links to Pakistan’s shadowy military establishment, the Haqqani network was described by U.S. Admiral Mike Mullen in 2011 as a “veritable arm” of Pakistani intelligence.
Designated a terrorist group by the U.S., the Haqqanis are known for their heavy use of suicide bombers.
They were blamed for the devastating truck bomb in the heart of Kabul in May 2017 that killed around 150 people – though Sirajuddin later denied the accusation in a rare audio message.
The network has also been accused of assassinating top Afghan officials and holding kidnapped Westerners for ransom.
They include the Canadian Joshua Boyle, his American wife Caitlan Coleman, and their three children – all born in captivity – who were released last year, as well as U.S. soldier Bowe Bergdahl, who was freed in 2014.