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Top Haqqani Leader Captured in Afghanistan

  • Ayaz Gul

NATO forces in Afghanistan say a joint raid has led to the arrest of a top commander of the Haqqani network. The arrest comes as Afghan authorities say they have handed over evidence to neighboring Pakistan that the recent assassination of Afghanistan’s former president and top peace negotiator Burhanuddin Rabbani was planned on Pakistani soil.

A NATO statement issued in Kabul Saturday says the senior leader of the Haqqani network, Haji Mali Khan, was arrested in a joint security operation earlier this week in the Paktiya province of Afghanistan, which borders Pakistan.

NATO says the detained Haqqani leader was managing bases for the lethal militant outfit and moving fighters from Pakistan into Afghanistan to launch terrorist attacks. The Taliban has denied Khan was captured.

The Haqqani network is known for carrying out high-profile deadly attacks on U.S-led coalition forces fighting the Taliban insurgency.

Afghan intelligence officials alleged Saturday that the Pakistani spy agency, the ISI (Inter-Services Agency) helped fugitive Taliban leaders plot the recent assassination of the country’s former president, Burhanuddin Rabbani. They claim to have handed over evidence to Islamabad that the suicide bombing was planned near the Pakistani city of Quetta.

Authorities in Pakistan deny the allegations. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Tehmina Janjua told VOA that her country has not received any information from the Afghan government.

“Pakistan has condemned this act of terrorism in the strongest terms. Prime Minister Gilani visited Kabul to offer condolences to Professor Rabbani’s family and to the people of Afghanistan. In his meeting with President Karzai, Prime Minister Gilani offered cooperation in investigations into the assassination. Pakistan’s offer to investigate stands. As yet, no dossier has been received from the Afghan side," she said.

The slain Afghan leader, Burhanuddin Rabbani, was head of the High Peace Council established to seek a negotiated settlement of the Afghan conflict by promoting reconciliation with Taliban insurgents.

But a suicide bomber claiming to be carrying a message of peace from the Taliban leadership killed the former president at his home on September the 20.

His murder dealt a major blow to peace and reconciliation efforts in Afghanistan.

In a recorded video statement released in Kabul Saturday, Afghan President Hamid Karzi said that trying to hold peace talks with the Taliban is futile following Rabbani’s murder. Instead, he says, the only way forward for Afghanistan is to negotiate with Pakistan.