The founder of the notorious Haqqani network, one of the deadliest militant groups in Afghanistan, died after a long illness, the Taliban said Tuesday.
Jalaluddin Haqqani had been in poor health and bedridden for years, according to the Taliban, which confirmed the death in a statement but did not say when or where he died.
“Haqqani had become quite old and was suffering from different health problems,” a Taliban source close to the Haqqani family told Reuters.
Haqqani founded his militant network in the 1970s and soon after gained prominence as a guerrilla leader fighting the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. He was one of Washington’s most prized clients in the CIA-backed mujahideen war against the Soviet army throughout the 1980s.
After the Soviet Union pulled out of Afghanistan, Haqqani aligned his group with the Taliban, which took power in 1996 following a brutal civil war against the Soviet-backed government. When the U.S. ousted the Taliban in 2001, the Haqqani network turned against its former benefactor and became one of the most feared and powerful insurgent groups in Afghanistan.
Rumors of Haqqani’s death have swirled for years, but neither the Taliban nor the Haqqani network ever confirmed the reports. In announcing Haqqani’s death Tuesday, the Taliban called him an “exemplary” religious scholar and warrior.
“The actions and exploits of Haqqani and his untiring efforts to keep the Islamic Emirate united in the face of American invasion are golden chapters of history which future Islamic generations shall forever be proud of,” the Taliban the statement said, according to the Long War Journal.
Haqqani’s death is not expected to disrupt his jihadist network, which for years has been under the operational control of his son, Sirajuddin Haqqani. The younger Haqqani was recently made deputy leader of the Afghan Taliban, further merging the two militant groups into a potent insurgency. (RELATED: US Downplays Insurgency As Taliban Assaults Kill Hundreds Of Afghan Soldiers)
Reports of Haqqani’s death come as the Trump administration is trying to pressure Pakistan into stepping up the fight against jihadist groups operating in its northwest border region. The Haqqani network has long operated on both sides of the border and is thought to have close ties to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, a charge Islamabad denies.
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