‘Haqqani’s death won’t change network’

His role in the group in recent years was ideological rather than practical, says Afghan official


Afghan Defence Ministry spokesman Mohammad Radmanish said Jalaluddin Haqqani’s death was not expected to mean any major change for the Haqqani Network. “Operationally, his death will not have an impact on the group,” he said, adding that Haqqani’s role in recent years was ideological rather than practical.

Jalaluddin, whose network is known for its heavy use of suicide bombers against Afghan civilians, security forces, and U.S.-led NATO troops, was a key figure in entrenching jihad in the conflict-ridden region over the past 40 years. His group is at the heart of regional tensions, with Washington and Kabul long suspecting the Haqqanis of having links to Pakistan’s shadowy military establishment.

Born in Afghanistan

Jalaluddin, believed to have been born in Afghanistan before migrating to Pakistan’s tribal areas, first came to prominence as an Afghan mujahideen commander fighting the Soviet occupation in the 1980s with the help of the U.S. and Pakistan.

He became a Minister in the Taliban regime which took power in Afghanistan in 1996 — one of the only major mujahideen leaders to join the group — and was close to its late founder Mullah Omar.

But after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 toppled the regime, he pulled back from the public eye, making only a handful of appearances in later years as the fearsome reputation of the Haqqani network began to grow. He had been bedridden for years and had already passed the leadership to his son Sirajuddin, who is also the Taliban’s deputy leader. Jalaluddin “was from among the great distinguished Jihadi personalities of this era”, the Taliban said in a statement posted on Twitter.

The Haqqani family confirmed the patriarch’s death in a WhatsApp message to journalists. It was not clear where or when he died.

Died earlier?

A security official in Kabul said Afghan intelligence services believed that Haqqani had in fact died some three years ago.

The official said the announcement of the death should be seen in connection with increased pressure from the United States on Pakistan over U.S. accusations Pakistan is not doing enough to defeat militant groups on its territory.

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