The Afghan Taliban condemned the killing of Nasiruddin Haqqani, a top official in the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network who was gunned down yesterday in Islamabad, Pakistan.
The statement announcing the “martyrdom” of Nasiruddin was released today on the Afghan Taliban’s official website, Voice of Jihad. It was signed by “The Leadership Council of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” the official name of the Afghan Taliban.
Nasiruddin served as a key financier and facilitator for the group. He also served as an “emissary” to al Qaeda, and often traveled to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates between 2004-2009 to carry out fundraising for the Haqqani Network, al Qaeda, and the Taliban [see LWJ report, US adds Haqqani Network, Taliban leaders to list of designated terrorists, for more details on Nasiruddin and his terrorism designation].
“It is with great regret that we have learnt about the martyrdom of Nasiruddin Haqqani (may Allah accept him), the elder son of the famous Jihadi and scholarly personality and member of Leadership Council of Islamic the respected Mawlawi Jalaluddin Haqqani,” the Afghan Taliban said.
While the Taliban did not describe how Nariruddin was killed, they said he died “in a cowardly terrorist attack of the enemy ….” Nasiruddin was gunned down outside a bakery run by Afghans in the Bhara Kahu area of Islamabad. The unidentified shooters were riding motorcycles when they attacked him.
No group has claimed credit for killing Nasiruddin. The Afghan Taliban’s statement did not define the “enemy.” The Pakistani Taliban accused the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, Pakistan’s military intelligence service, which backs the Haqqani Network, of executing the attack. But given the Haqqani Network’s relationship with the ISID, Nasiruddin is more likely to have been killed in an Afghan or US intelligence operation, by rival jihadist groups (the Haqqani Network is rarely involved in jihadist infighting), or by criminals.
The killing of Nasiruddin in Islamabad puts a dent in the narrative of the Taliban as well as the Pakistani government that the Haqqani Network is based in eastern Afghanistan and does not operate in Pakistan. The Afghan Taliban maintain this position in order to portray their jihad in Afghanistan as a nationalist fight and to protect their Pakistani backers. The Pakistani government and military maintain that the Haqqanis operate only in Afghanistan, in order to rebuff US and Western pressure to act against the group. The Haqqani Network is closely tied to al Qaeda and is one of the most effective jihadist groups operating in Afghanistan.
Haqqani Network is part of the Taliban
The Taliban’s statement is further confirmation that the Haqqani Network is a key part of the Afghan Taliban. In the past, Western officials have attempted to delink the Afghan Taliban from the Haqqani Network, as part of an effort to weaken the Taliban movement and divide the groups in order to negotiate a peace deal. While the Haqqani Network operates with a degree of autonomy in eastern Afghanistan, the group still falls under the command of the Afghan Taliban.
But the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network have publicly denied that the Haqqanis operate outside the aegis of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. In a statement released on Voice of Jihad in September 2012, the Afghan Taliban addressed this issue head on.
The Taliban claimed in that statement that there is “no separate entity or network in Afghanistan by the name of Haqqani,” and that their overall leader, Jalaluddin Haqqani, is a member of the Quetta Shura, the group’s top leadership council.
“The honorable Mawlawi Jalaluddin Haqqani is a member of the Leadership Council of Islamic Emirate and is a close, loyal and trusted associate of the esteemed Amir-ul-Mumineen [leader of the faithful, Mullah Omar] and those Mujahideen entrusted under the command of his sons are in fact the heroic Mujahideen of Islamic Emirate who like other Mujahideen strictly obey the esteemed Amir-ul-Mumineen and wage Jihad against the invaders throughout the country,” the Taliban statement said.
The Taliban also claimed that the Haqqani Network was created by the US as part of “its satanic plot” to divide the group.
“By employing its satanic plot, America is trying to create and black list a separate entity in the organized and unified rank of Islamic Emirate …,” the statement continued.
Haqqani Network leaders have also rebuffed claims that the two groups operate independently. In a 2008 interview with Al Somood, the Taliban’s official magazine, Jalaluddin outlined his role in the Taliban and said he was a member of the Quetta Shura. He also denied that his followers constituted a separate entity from the Taliban.
The Haqqani Network frequently releases its propaganda tapes and statements through Voice of Jihad and its leaders are often interviewed in Al Somood. The Afghan Taliban also issue martyrdom statements for slain top Haqqani Network leaders, such as Nasiruddin or Badruddin Haqqani, who was killed in a US drone strike in Pakistan in 2012.