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PESHAWAR: Jalaluddin Haqqani, a veteran Afghan resistance commander and America’s bête noire, is dead, his family confirmed in a communiqué on Tuesday.

The communiqué released through the Afghan Taliban said the founder of Haqqani network died “after a long battle with illness”. It did not say where the 79-year-old militant commander died or where he was buried.

Reports of Haqqani’s illness had been doing the rounds for quite some time amid a report, which was denied later, that he was already dead.

In the eulogy issued on behalf of his sons Sirajuddin, Ibrahim and Khalilur Rehman Haqqani, the family said that in view of “the current problems and security situations”, they could not “conduct an open funeral and condolence gathering”.

Backed by the West, Jalaluddin Haqqani, a commander of the Hezb-i-Islami Khalis, had waged a relentless war against the Soviet forces in Afghanistan in the 1980s. He was known as a CIA asset, fighting the foreign occupation from his native Paktia. He was a graduate of Maulana Samiul Haq’s Darul Uloom Haqqania near Akora Khattak, Nowshera.

Disillusioned by infighting within Afghan ‘mujahedeen’ for power, the veteran commander switched sides and joined the Afghan Taliban. He was appointed a minister for borders and tribal affairs when the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan.

Driven from power after the US invasion of Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks, Haqqani along with other members of his group sought sanctuary in Dandy Darpakhel near North Waziristan’s Miramshah where he owned a madressah and a house.

After becoming bedridden, the veteran commander had nominated his 29-year-old son Sirajuddin, also known as Khalifa Siraj among his fighters, to run his group.

Jalaluddin Haqqani had 10 sons from two wives, one from his Zadran tribe and the other a Yemeni from whom he also had a daughter.

Haqqani’s two sons, Mohammad Haqqani and Badruddin Haqqani, were killed in drone strikes in North Waziristan in 2010 and 2012, while another son, Naseeruddin Haqqani, was gunned down by unidentified assailants near Bara Kahu, Islamabad, in 2013. One of his sons, Anees, is under detention in Afghanistan.

Jalaluddin Haqqani’s death will not have any impact on the tactical front in Afghanistan, as Siraj now leads the Haqqani network and is believed to be behind some of the most deadly and spectacular attacks on Afghan and US-led Nato forces in Afghanistan.

The US has been urging Pakistan to “do more” to drive out the Haqqani network which it believes enjoys sanctuary in Pakistan. Islamabad denies the charge, insisting that it had driven out all militant groups, including the Haqqani network, from their base in North Waziristan in the military’s Zarb-i-Azb operation in June 2014.

Published in Dawn, September 5th, 2018