ISLAMABAD, Nov 11: While the federal government is still recovering from the aftershocks of the killing of Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief Hakeemullah Mehsud, a key member of the powerful Haqqani network is reported to have been killed in Bharakau, in the suburbs of Islamabad, on Sunday night.

Nasiruddin Haqqani, elder son of the legendary Jalaluddin Haqqani who founded the deadly Haqqani network, was shot at by two attackers equipped with automatic weapons between 8 and 9pm in a busy market of Bharakau.

An FIR of attempted murder was registered against unidentified attackers at the local police station. However, no senior government official spoke on the incident, which many believe would heavily figure in ties between the US and Pakistan, as questions would be asked about his presence in Islamabad.

A retired military official, who preferred not to come on record, said the targeted killing of Mr Haqqani would prove to be another Osama bin Laden-like episode and definitely questions would be raised about the presence of such a high-profile Taliban leader with his family right in the capital.

Osama bin Laden was killed by Americans in Abbottabad, close to the Pakistan Military Academy (PMA) in May 2011 after he had been living there for several years.

Sources in police and various agencies confirmed that the slain Haqqani had been living in the area for the past three to four years.

The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) preferred not to comment on the killing.

Known as Zabihullah Mujahid, Nasiruddin was a spokesperson for his group. He was also the chief finance controller of the group and would regularly visit Middle East countries to raise funds.

Although the Haqqanis had thrived on US funding during Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the late Nasiruddin had been declared a global terrorist by the US treasury department.

The US has always been suspicious of ties between the Haqqani network and the Pakistani security establishment. In September 2011, the then head of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, famously called the Haqqani network a “veritable arm” of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI), in a testimony before the US Senate. Pakistan strongly reacted to the statement and termed it mere accusation.

An effective presence of Haqqanis on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghan border, however, was an open secret, the retired military official said, adding that if there were any chances left of resuming peace talks with the TTP, they had gone after the killing of Nasiruddin. “No final peace deal between the TTP and Pakistan can be done without approval of the Haqqani network,” he added.

During the past two years, four senior members of the Haqqani network have been killed. Badaruddin Haqqani, brother of Nasiruddin, was killed in August 2012, Jan Baz Zadran was killed in October 2011 and Mullah Sanggen Zadran in September this year.

The capital police neither denied nor confirmed the assassination of Nasiruddin Haqqani.

The Inspector General of Police, Sikandar Hayat, said the killing of anybody named Haqqani was not in the knowledge of police.

Two persons were injured in the attack and the identity of one of them was not known because he was taken away by some people along with his vehicle. Besides, it had also not been established whether the man had been killed in the attack or only injured, he added.

Sources told Dawn that it appeared to be a targeted operation, recalling that two persons armed with sub-machine guns ambushed him from different sides when he appeared in the market. As a result Mr Haqqani and a bread maker, Mohammad Farooq, suffered injuries and started bleeding after falling down.

The gunmen, after ascertaining the death of the target, escaped on a vehicle, according to an eyewitness.

Afterwards, some people appeared at the scene and took away the body of Haqqani and his SUV, the sources added.

They said the body was taken to the house of Mr Haqqani, in nearby Shahpur, where a number of officials, including senior police officers in their official vehicles with police lights, also arrived.

Transport was arranged and the body was dispatched to Miramshah, North Waziristan, they added. A police team also visited the spot and collected over 50 empty bullet shells.

The bread maker was taken to a hospital.

A shopkeeper, Khurram, told Dawn that the victim had gone to a Tandoor to purchase Naan when two persons started indiscriminate fire.

“The attackers emptied their weapons and also confirmed the death of Mr Haqqani before leaving.”

Another shopkeeper of the area said bloodstains remained in the market till late in the evening when some policemen cleaned the place.

Another witness, Waseem, said the victim used to visit the market quite regularly during the past couple of years. He had a white car and the SUV.

“A few days ago, he was talking with someone about getting his documents attested from an officer to go abroad,” he added.

The police sources said several raids were conducted in various localities of Bharakau and adjoining areas in search of the assassins.

The sources said Mr Haqqani, along with his family and a nephew, Khizir, had been residing in the house in Shahpur for four years. He and his nephew used to visit markets regularly.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan will have to answer many questions about the presence of such a high-profile Taliban leader in Islamabad in coming days.

A classified Nato report, ‘The State of the Taliban 2012’, leaked last year, had alleged that the “ISI is thoroughly aware of Taliban activities and the whereabouts of all senior Taliban personnel”.

It had further underlined: “Senior Taliban representatives, such as Nasiruddin Haqqani, maintain residences in the immediate vicinity of ISI headquarters in Islamabad, Pakistan.” However, the military had then strongly rejected the report, saying it was an attempt to malign Pakistan.

Additional reporting by Baqir Sajjad Syed

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