ISLAMABAD - Pakistan says recent killings of Haqqani Network leaders in Afghanistan show that allegations Islamabad is harboring the terrorist group are misplaced.
Afghan and U.S. officials have long alleged Haqqanis use sanctuaries on Pakistani soil with the help of the neighboring country’s spy agency for plotting deadly cross-border attacks in support of the Taliban insurgency.
Pakistan's government has consistently rejected the charges.
“Since July this year, eight leaders and commanders of [the] Haqqani Network alone have been actually killed in Afghanistan by ... U.S. and Afghan forces,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Nafees Zakaria said Thursday.
He cited media reports of the fatalities in U.S. drone strikes and in ground actions performed by Afghan commandos as well as intelligence operatives, particularly in eastern and southeastern Afghan regions bordering Pakistan.
“So, I think the number itself, within this short period of time, is reflective of where the leadership of [the] Haqqani Network is at the moment,” said Zakaria.
In Kabul, authorities denied that the terror group's leadership is located in Afghanistan.
"The killings of Haqqani leaders in Afghanistan doesn't mean that they are based in Afghanistan," Defense Ministry deputy spokesperson Mohammad Radmanesh said Thursday.
Radmanesh added that "everyone knows terrorists are based in Pakistan. The Quetta Shura, the Peshawar Shura are recruiting in Miranshah and Quetta cities and send terrorists to Afghanistan."
Radmanesh said that the Afghan forces killed Haqqani leaders while defending Afghanistan.
Designated terror organization
The U.S. Department of State has designated the Haqqani Network a Foreign Terrorist Organization for carrying out deadly attacks against American and coalition forces and maintaining close ties to al-Qaida.
The State Department also has authorized a reward of millions of dollars for information leading to the location and arrest of Sirajuddin Haqqani, the network’s chief.
The only known Haqqani leader killed in Pakistan is Nasiruddin Haqqani, an elder brother of the group’s fugitive chief.
The slain leader was allegedly residing near Islamabad and was gunned down three years ago by unknown attackers while he was buying bread in a local market.
The youngest brother among the Haqqanis, Anas Haqqani, is in custody in Afghanistan and has recently been sentenced to death after being convicted on terrorism charges. The conviction is under appeal.