ISLAMABAD, Sep 4: The founder of Afghanistan’s much-feared Haqqani network, a former US ally turned fierce enemy, has died after years of ill health, a Taliban spokesman said Tuesday. Jalaluddin Haqqani was 72.
Haqqani died Monday inside Afghanistan, Zabihullah Mujahed told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. The elderly founder of the outlawed Afghanistan-based organization, once hailed as a freedom fighter by US President Ronald Reagan, had been paralyzed for the past 10 years.
In announcing his death Tuesday, Mujahed called Haqqani a religious scholar and exemplary warrior.
Because of his infirmity, Haqqani’s network has been led by his son Sirajuddin Haqqani, who is also deputy head of the Taliban. Considered the most formidable of the Taliban’s fighting forces, the Haqqani network has been linked to some of the more audacious attacks in Afghanistan. The elder Haqqani joined the Taliban when they overran Kabul in September 1996, expelling feuding mujahedeen groups, whose battles left the capital in ruins.
Since then, the network has been among the fiercest foes fighting US and NATO troops in Afghanistan.
Haqqani was among the Afghan mujahedeen, or holy warriors, the United States backed in the 1980s to fight the former Soviet Union’s invading army, sent to Afghanistan in 1979 to prop up the pro-Moscow government. Haqqani was praised by the late US Congressman Charlie Wilson as “goodness personified.” After 10 years, Moscow negotiated an exit from Afghanistan in an agreement that eventually led to the collapse of Kabul’s communist government and a takeover by the mujahedeen.
In 2012 the United States declared the Haqqani network a terrorist organization. Haqqani had not been heard from in several years and reports of his death were widespread in 2015.
Declassified US cables called Haqqani a “moderate socialist” who did not embrace the Taliban’s strict rules that denied girls education. “Haqqani functions more in the military area, and is not a force in setting Taliban political or social issues,” the cables read.
Born in 1947 into the powerful Zardran tribe that dominates southeastern Afghanistan’s Paktia, Paktika and Khost provinces, Haqqani was a close friend of Osama bin Laden, who often took refuge in his camps outside Khost.
The father of 12 sons, the ailing Haqqani — who had been suffering from Parkinson disease for several years prior to his death — had turned the day-to-day military campaign over to his son Sirajuddin. AP