The commander, Badruddin Haqqani, is the brother of the network’s leader, Sirajuddin Haqqani, and the son of the militant organization’s founder, Jalaluddin Haqqani. His death would deal a significant setback to a wing of the Afghan insurgency that U.S. officials have long regarded as one of the deadliest sources of terror attacks in the Afghan capital, Kabul, and in eastern Afghanistan.
“Our operatives confirmed that Badruddin Haqqani was killed in an airstrike in Pakistan,” said Shafiqullah Tahiri, the deputy spokesman for the Afghan National Directorate for Security, who gave no further details.
Pakistani authorities, meanwhile, say they are still seeking to confirm whether Haqqani was killed in the drone strike. A senior Pakistani intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said it could take several days to confirm whether or not Haqqani was killed in the attack. Taliban sources in Pakistan said they could not confirm that Haqqani died in the drone strike.
The missile attaack occurred in the Shna Khwara area near Miramshah, the administrative seat for North Waziristan and a hub for the Haqqani network. It was one of five drone strikes against militant compounds and vehicles in North Waziristan last week. The latest occurred Friday in the Shawal valley of North Waziristan and killed at least 18 people, local officials said.
Last year, the U.S. State Department added Haqqani to its list of designated terrorists. Jalaluddin Haqqani, Sirajuddin Haqqani and another brother, Nasiruddin Haqqani, are also on that list. The State Department described Badruddin Haqqani as an “operational commander” for the Haqqani organization, adding that he sits on the Miramshah Shura, a militant council that oversees all the network’s activities.
Badruddin Haqqani has also been in charge of the Haqqani network’s kidnapping activities, and was responsible for holding hostage New York Times reporter David Rohde in 2008, the State Department said. Rohde escaped in June 2009.
Though the U.S. has repeatedly urged Pakistan to militarily pursue the Haqqani network in its strongholds in North Waziristan, Pakistan has rejected the requests, contending that its forces are stretched too thin fighting militants throughout the tribal areas along the Afghan border, and cannot risk such a full-scale offensive.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has recently said that Pakistani military leaders have stated their intent to carry out a new operation against militant strongholds in North Waziristan. However, that offensive is expected to target the Pakistani Taliban, the country’s homegrown insurgency, and not the Haqqani network. The U.S. has long believed that Pakistan’s intelligence community maintains a close relationship with the Haqqani organization, a charge that Pakistan has always denied.
— Alex Rodriguez in Islamabad, Pakistan.
Laura King also contributed to this story, reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan.