11.12.13 10:45 AM ET
Hitmen Take Out Haqqani Network Bigwig Nasiruddin Haqqani
In what senior Afghan Taliban leaders are calling the biggest blow ever to the lethal and notorious Haqqani network, a top scion of the organization’s ailing and elderly founder, Jalaluddin Haqqani, has been assassinated by gunmen near his home on the outskirts of Islamabad. Nasiruddin Haqqani, the network’s top fund raiser, organizer and liaison man with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), will be hard if not impossible to replace, say multiple Taliban sources. Already the Haqqani’s have lost one activist son, Badruddin, to a U.S .drone strike in 2012. Just as crippling, Mullah Sangeen Zadran, a key commander in eastern Afghanistan, was killed in a drone attack this past September. But Nasiruddin’s death is the family’s most important loss so far.
Taliban sources tell The Daily Beast that Nasiruddin traveled to the oil-rich Gulf States every four months or so to raise funds to finance the well-armed and well—trained Haqqani militia. His efforts helped finance a spate of high-profile hits against Afghan government offices, five-star hotels, U.S. military bases in the family’s eastern Afghanistan strongholds, and Indian diplomatic missions in Kabul and in the east. Nasiruddin, whose mother is an Arab, deftly exploited his family’s wide-ranging contacts throughout the region and spoke fluent Arabic. For his efforts the U.S. placed him on the list of “global terrorists” in 2010.
He was also deeply involved in the organization’s military strategy “Nasir was the banker and the brains behind the Haqqani network,” says one senior Taliban source who declines to be quoted by name. He says that while the network’s elder son and top commander, Sirajuddin Haqqani, spends most of his time in the family’s stronghold in Miranshah in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal agency, Nasiruddin—when not in the Gulf—was traveling between the family’s tradition Afghan strongholds in Khost and Paktia province and Islamabad, dispersing money, taking the pulse of the insurgency and hobnobbing with key Pakistani security officials. What’s more, he was the Haqqani family’s representative on the insurgency’s ruling Quetta Shura.
Nasiruddin had no shortage of enemies who were eager to take him out, the Taliban sources say. One suspect is the Pakistani Taliban, who have been feuding with the Haqqanis. Hakimullah Mehsud, the Pakistan Taliban leader who was killed in a U.S. drone strike this month, resented Sirajuddin’s and Nasiruddin’s close relations with Pakistani intelligence, whom Hakimullah saw as his enemy. Several times, Hakimullah—who has recently been replaced by Mullah Fazlullah as the Pakistani Taliban’s commander—called both Sirajuddin and Nasiruddin “puppets of the Pakistani intelligence agencies” to their faces, according to the Taliban sources. “It was a highly organized hit in the midst of secure Islamabad,” the sources say. “The attackers knew what they were doing.” They add that Afghan intelligence agencies also hated Nasiruddin but that they wouldn’t dare try to carry out a hit on him in broad daylight deep inside Pakistan.
Nasiruddin and the Haqqanis also had plenty of enemies inside their Haqqani clan and Zadran tribe as a result of their ruthless treatment and killings of uncooperative tribal leaders and even villagers who got in their way. “There are many men even in their own tribe who would like to drink the blood of the father or the sons,” one senior Afghan Taliban source says. Even the Afghan Taliban, with whom the Haqqanis are linked, disliked Nasiruddin because he never shared or gave any accounting of the funds he had collected from Gulf sources and other contributors to the cause. Three years ag,o the Haqqanis also killed the brother of a wealthy Afghan businessman, Khalil Zadran, who had vowed to avenge his brother’s death.
Nasiruddin was a fixture around Islamabad, which makes a mockery of Pakistan’s denial that it shelters and cooperates with the Haqqanis. Nasiruddin owned three houses in and abound Islamabad. He was gunned down by one or two gunmen riding on a motorbike near one of his houses in the Islamabad suburb of Bhara Kahu. Ironically, he has been swiftly interned in the same cemetery where Hakimullah, his enemy, was recently buried.