ISLAMABAD - The head of the dreaded Haqqani network who also is second-in-command of the Afghan Taliban has denied insurgents’ involvement in recent bloody attacks in Kabul.
Fugitive Sirajuddin Haqqani made the remarks in a rare Pashto language audio message released late Sunday by the Taliban to VOA.
He specifically referred to the May 31 tanker truck bombing of the Afghan capital’s heavily guarded Wazir Akbar Khan diplomatic sector followed by a triple suicide attack on a funeral in Kabul and last week’s bombing of a mosque in the western city of Herat.
The three strikes killed at least 180 people and wounded hundreds of others. Almost all of the victims were civilians.
“Whoever planned and organized them, this was certainly not the work of the Islamic Emirate [the Taliban], nor will it conduct such activities anywhere [in the country] that are harmful to innocent [Afghan] civilians,” Haqqani asserted.
No one has yet claimed responsibility for the blasts in Kabul and Herat.
Most of the casualties were caused by the tanker truck, filled with an estimated 1,500 kilograms of explosives. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani told an international conference in Kabul last week that the massive explosions killed more than 150 people and wounded 350 others, including foreigners.
The attack was the deadliest in Afghanistan since 2001.
The Afghan spy agency swiftly blamed the Haqqani network of plotting the massive blast, allegedly with direct assistance from neighboring Pakistan’s spy agency.
Haqqani in his audio message reiterated that the Taliban will not end its insurgency until all the U.S.-led "foreign invaders” are expelled from Afghanistan.
He criticized the Afghan government for allegedly promoting Western traditions in the country, "contrary to Islamic traditions," in the name of human rights.
“The way you [Afghans] celebrate Afghanistan’s independence from Russians and the way you celebrate Afghanistan’s independence from British invaders, God willing, there will be a time when you will be proudly celebrating independence from Americans and their allies," the fugitive commander asserted.
The U.S. Department of State designated Haqqani a global terrorist in 2008, before designating his network a foreign terrorist organization in 2012.
Washington also has offered a $10 million reward for the Afghan terror chief, dubbed “Khalifa” or “the boss,” who is believed to have masterminded some of the deadly attacks against local and foreign forces in Afghanistan.
Afghan and U.S. officials alleged Sirajuddin Haqqani orchestrates the violence out of his sanctuaries in volatile tribal areas of Pakistan and with the help of that country's intelligence operatives.
Islamabad rejects the charges and says its military operations over the past three years have "uprooted all terrorist groups, including the Haqqani network" from the tribal belt near the border with Afghanistan.