Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 27 December 2014

Gunmen kill key Afghan militant

The a bullet-riddled wall of an Afghan bakery where Nasiruddin Haqqani was assassinated (AP)
The a bullet-riddled wall of an Afghan bakery where Nasiruddin Haqqani was assassinated (AP)

A senior leader of one of the most feared militant groups fighting Western troops in Afghanistan has been shot dead after he stopped to buy fresh bread from a bakery on the outskirts of Islamabad.

Nasiruddin Haqqani's death is one of the biggest blows to the Haqqani militant network since the Afghan war started, but the commander's presence in the Pakistani capital and questions over who killed him could spark fresh tension between Pakistan and the United States.

US officials have accused Pakistan's intelligence agency of supporting the al-Qaida-linked Haqqani network to counter the influence of arch enemy India in Afghanistan.

No one has claimed responsibility for killing Haqqani in an area of Islamabad only a couple of miles from the US Embassy, but some Pakistanis are suspicious the Americans were behind it.

Haqqani was a key financier and emissary for the family business. His brother, Sirajuddin Haqqani, currently leads the group, which was founded by their father, Jalaluddin Haqqani, who achieved fame fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

The US Treasury imposed sanctions on Haqqani in 2010 when it added him to its list of specially designated global terrorists.

The gunmen who killed him as he got out of his vehicle outside a bakery in a residential area called Bara Kahu were riding a motorcycle. The attack left blood stains on the pavement and bullet holes in the bakery's tiled wall.

His 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.

The killing comes less than two weeks after a US drone strike killed the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Hakimullah Mehsud, a day before the Pakistani government planned to invite him to hold peace talks.

The Haqqani network is closely allied with the Afghan Taliban and pledges allegiance to their leader Mullah Omar, though it operates fairly independently.

The US has repeatedly demanded that Pakistan carry out an operation in North Waziristan to target the Haqqanis and other militants based there who attack troops in Afghanistan. The Haqqani group is blamed for some of the most high-profile attacks in Afghanistan, especially in the capital, Kabul.

Pakistan has refused to conduct an offensive, saying its troops are stretched too thin fighting domestic militants. But analysts widely believe that Pakistan is reluctant to cross the Haqqani network, viewing it as a key proxy in Afghanistan.

The US has instead resorted to targeting Haqqani militants and their allies in North Waziristan with dozens of drone attacks, sparking tension with Islamabad. A drone strike killed one of Nasiruddin's brothers, Badruddin Haqqani, in North Waziristan in August 2012.

-AP

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