Senior Haqqani leader shot dead in Islamabad
ISLAMABAD // A senior leader of the Haqqani network, one of the most feared militant groups fighting US troops in Afghanistan, was shot dead on the outskirts of Islamabad.
Nasiruddin Haqqani was killed on Sunday night in a residential area of Islamabad called Bhara Kahu, which is only a couple of kilometres from the US Embassy.
“I can confirm that Nasiruddin Haqqani, 36, was shot dead in Islamabad’s Bhara Kahu area on Sunday night. At least four gunmen opened fire on him,” a senior Afghan Taliban source from the Haqqani network said.
A spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban confirmed the death and vowed to take revenge, accusing Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency of killing him.
“Nasiruddin Haqqani has been martyred by ISI,” said Shahidullah Shahid, the main spokesman for the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan.
“He was killed because he bravely supported Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud.”
Afghanistan’s NDS spy agency also confirmed Haqqani’s death but blamed it on an “internal conflict”.
The Haqqani network is a key ally of the Afghan Taliban and has pledged allegiance to its leader, Mullah Omar, though it operates fairly independently. Nasiruddin’s presence in the Pakistani capital could raise questions in Washington. US officials have accused Pakistan’s intelligence agency of supporting the Haqqani network as a key proxy in the Afghan war – an allegation denied by Islamabad.
His death will also likely raise questions in Pakistan since he was wanted by the Americans, and the US is often accused of running an elaborate spy network across the country. No one claimed responsibility for the killing.
After the shooting, Nasiruddin’s body was taken to the town of Miran Shah in the North Waziristan tribal area – the Haqqani network’s main sanctuary in Pakistan – where he was buried, a Taliban commander, Ahsanullah Ahsan, and a Pakistani intelligence official said.
Nasiruddin was considered an important financier and emissary for the Haqqani network, which is currently led by his brother, Sirajuddin Haqqani. Their father, Jalaluddin Haqqani, founded the group and is well-known for fighting the Soviets after they invaded Afghanistan in 1979.
The US has repeatedly demanded that Pakistan carry out an operation in North Waziristan to target the Haqqani network and other militants based there who conduct cross-border attacks against American troops in Afghanistan.
Pakistan has refused, saying its troops are stretched too thin fighting domestic militants at war with the state. But analysts widely believed that Pakistan is reluctant to cross the Haqqani network, believing it will be a key ally in countering the influence of archenemy India in Afghanistan after foreign forces withdraw.
The US has instead resorted to targeting Haqqani militants and their allies in North Waziristan with dozens of drone attacks, sparking tension with Islamabad.
Pakistani officials regularly criticise drone strikes in public as a violation of the country’s sovereignty, but the government has been known to support at least some of the attacks in the past, especially ones targeting enemies of the state rather than groups like the Haqqani network.
* Associated Press with additional reporting by Agence France-Presse
Updated: November 11, 2013 04:00 AM