Afghanistan's intelligence agency says its operatives have confirmed that a top commander of Haqqani militants behind some of the biggest attacks on Western and Afghan government targets in Afghanistan has been killed.
Agency spokesman Shafiqullah Tahiri said Sunday that Badruddin Haqqani was killed in an airstrike in Pakistan, The Associated Press reported. He said the strike took place last week but did not give more details. He would not say whether the agency's sources have seen the body.
The Taliban, which is allied with the Haqqani network, have said that Badruddin is still alive and in Afghanistan.
Tahiri said the Afghan government is confident that its information is correct.
Badruddin is the Haqqani network's head of operations and is considered second in seniority to the group's leader, his older brother Sirajuddin Haqqani. Badrddin is also believed to handle the network’s vital business interests and smuggling operations.
One senior Pakistani intelligence official told Reuters that Badruddin had fled a compound in Pakistan's tribal North Waziristan that he and other militants were in after it was hit by a missile, then was killed by a second drone strike on a car that he was in.
However, Maulvi Ahmed Jan, a senior Haqqani network commander, denied Badruddin had been killed. He said a distant relative, 13-year-old Osama, was killed in the strike and his funeral had been mistaken by locals for Badruddin's.
If Badruddin's death is confirmed, it could deal a major blow to the Haqqanis, one of the United States' most feared enemies in Afghanistan.
The Haqqanis are the most experienced fighters in Afghanistan and the loss of one of the group's most important leaders could ease pressure on NATO as it prepares to withdraw most of its combat troops at the end of 2014.
A series of drone strikes in North Waziristan this week suggest the CIA, which remotely operates the aircraft, was after a high-value militant target in the unruly area.
The deaths of militants in such strikes are difficult to confirm as they often occur in areas of regions in the northwest such as North Waziristan that are hard for authorities to reach.
U.S. officials blame the al-Qaida-linked network for some of the boldest attacks in Afghanistan, including one on embassies and parliament in Kabul in April that lasted 18 hours, killing 11 Afghan security forces and four civilians.
The United States accuses Pakistan's intelligence agency of supporting the Haqqani network and using it as a proxy in Afghanistan to gain leverage against the growing influence of its arch-rival India in the country.
Pakistan denies the allegations.
Meer Afzal / EPA file
A picture dated Sept. 2 shows Mulla Dadullah (center) talking with journalists at the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area of Kunar and Bajaur tribal region.
Militant groups from Afghanistan and Pakistan have formed alliances and often cross the porous border for operations.
A separate NATO airstrike in eastern Afghanistan killed a commander of the Pakistani Taliban, both NATO and the Taliban said on Saturday.
Both sides identified the dead commander as Mulla Dadullah and said several of his comrades were also killed in the attack on Friday.
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