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Taliban Issues Purported Message From Haqqani Network Founder

Jalaluddin Haqqani
Jalaluddin Haqqani

The Afghan Taliban has published a written statement purportedly quoting Jalaluddin Haqqani as it continues to deny claims that the Haqqani network founder is dead.

The statement, published on the Taliban's website on August 2, quotes Haqqani as mourning the loss of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, whose death in 2013 was confirmed this week.

Haqqani also purportedly gives his backing to Mullah Akhtar Mansur as Omar's successor and recommends that "all members of the Islamic Emirate" -- the name the Taliban uses for Afghanistan and its former ruling regime -- "maintain their internal unity and discipline."

The statement comes amid reports that the Taliban leadership is divided over Omar's successor. The Taliban has announced Mullah Mansur as Omar's replacement, but some Taliban commanders have expressed support for Omar's son, Yuqub.

As the founder of the Haqqani network, which is allied with the Taliban and Al-Qaeda and which operates on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border, Haqqani's backing of Mullah Mansur could carry some weight among Taliban supporters.

Multiple credible Taliban sources told RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal, the Dawn newspaper, GEO-TV, and other Pakistani media on July 31 that Jaluluddin Haqqani died in 2014 from an illness and was buried in Afghanistan's southeastern province of Khost near the border with Pakistan.

Haqqani, in his 70s, is known to have been in ill health in recent years and has given up most day-to-day control of his militant network to his son, Sirajuddin Haqqani.

A Taliban statement that appeared on an official website of the militant group on August 1 said the reports of Haqqani's death had "no basis."

"Haqqani...was ill before but he has been blessed with good health for a prolonged period now and has no troubles currently," the statement read.

Several family members interviewed by Reuters on July 31 insisted that Haqqani is still alive.

One close relative said that he "no doubt, has become aged and suffering from different diseases."

But one family member told Reuters that the reports of his death were true.

That relative said Haqqani died in early 2013 of a brain hemorrhage and was buried in the Zadran area of Khost Province.

The reports of Jalaluddin Haqqani's death came just a day after the Afghan Taliban confirmed the death of its leader, Mullah Omar.

The Haqqani network became affiliated with the Taliban after the latter group captured Kabul in 1996 and assumed de facto control of Afghanistan.

Haqqani was the Taliban regime's minister of tribal affairs.

He fled to Pakistan after the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001 and the overthrow of the Taliban government.

Many experts believe Haqqani and his militia fighters also helped Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden flee from Afghanistan to a safe haven in Pakistan in late 2001.

Haqqani's militant network originated in Afghanistan during the mid-1970s and received support from the United States and Pakistan's ISI intelligence service during the 1980s Soviet war in Afghanistan.

Bin Laden was recruited by Haqqani as a foreign fighter in Afghanistan, where he received training to battle the Soviet Union.

The Haqqani network's ties with Al-Qaeda date to the founding of Al-Qaeda, but while the Salafist goals of Al-Qaeda are global in natural, the Haqqani network's agenda has been focused only on Afghanistan and the Pashtun tribal regions of Pakistan.

Haqqani's son Sirajuddin is listed by the United States as one of the most wanted terrorists in the world.

Washington has offered a $10 million bounty for Sirajuddin Haqqani's capture.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan, AP, Reuters, AFP, Dawn, and GEO-TV
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