Afghan Taliban announces death of Haqqani network founder

Dunya News

Jalaluddin was from among the great distinguished personalities of this era, the Taliban said.

KABUL (AFP) - 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 Tuesday. Jalaluddin Haqqani, whose son Sirajuddin now heads the group and is also the Taliban’s deputy leader, died "after a long battle with illness", the Taliban said in a statement.

Jalaluddin Haqqani and the network have been actively involved in various incidents of international significance. Photo: AFP

Jalaluddin "was from among the great distinguished militant 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 US and Pakistan.

He gained notoriety for his organization and bravery, garnering attention from the CIA and a personal visit from US 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.

Jalaluddin Haqqani, friends with Osama Bin Laden, right, has died aged 79. Photo: File

It was not clear when or where Jalaluddin died or what illness he had. In 2008 and 2015 there were rumors of his death. He was believed to be in his early eighties.

Unverified reports have placed him in Pakistan in recent years.

Given the already leading role played by his son, it is not clear what Jalaluddin’s demise will mean for the extremist group.

Devastating attacks 

The Haqqani network has been blamed for spectacular attacks across Afghanistan since the US 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 the Islamic State group.

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.
Designated a terrorist group by the US, 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.

A doctor treating & a Journalist from amrc interviewing commander Jalaluddin Haqqani in Khost Province. Photo: File

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 US soldier Bowe Bergdahl, who was freed in 2014. Analysts and diplomats downplayed the significance of his death for the group’s operations.

commander Jalaluddin Haqqani with American President Ronald Regen. Photo: File