Haqqani network denies killing former Afghan president

October 3, 2011 - 18:4
altA key leader of the Afghan militant group, the Haqqani network, has told the BBC it was not responsible for killing Burhanuddin Rabbani, the man overseeing Taliban peace talks.

Afghan officials have blamed the Taliban-affiliated network for the suicide attack on Rabbani.

Siraj Haqqani also told BBC Pashto on Monday that his network was not linked to Pakistan's spy agency, the ISI.

Mr. Haqqani was giving an audio response to written questions from the BBC.

Security considerations ruled out a face-to-face interview in which the answers could be challenged, but the BBC understands that the audio response is genuine.

The questions were delivered through an intermediary, who returned with the audio response.

Siraj Haqqani is the son of group founder Jalaluddin Haqqani and has a key role in its operations.

Siraj Haqqani also said that the Americans, among others, had been in touch to try to persuade him to enter talks with the Afghan government. That statement is credible, given the efforts which have apparently been going on behind the scenes to get some kind of peace process going (though for the time being, President Karzai, seems to want a halt to efforts to engage with the militants directly, preferring to talk instead to Pakistan). 

The Haqqani network has a 30-year history as a guerrilla force. To their supporter, they are fighting occupiers now, just as they did the Soviets. 

Some believe that if they are behind the recent attacks in Kabul, that may be about securing a place at the table in any future peace negotiations and a slice of the spoils.

The Haqqanis have been blamed for a series of deadly recent attacks in Kabul. 

'Military council'
Burhanuddin Rabbani was killed at his home in Kabul on September 20 when meeting a man who said he was carrying an important peace message from the Taliban. The man detonated a bomb hidden in his turban.

In his interview response, Siraj Haqqani simply says: "We haven't killed Burhanuddin Rabbani and this has been said many times by the spokespersons of the Islamic Emirate."

The Islamic Emirate is the name the Taliban gave to Afghanistan when they took control in 1996.

The Taliban have said they do not wish to comment on the Rabbani killing.

Mr. Haqqani said the "Islamic Emirate" was behind "the attack on the U.S. embassy, NATO headquarters and other attacks" in Kabul, which he said were ordered by a "military council" and were not the work of individuals.

ISI links denied
In relation to links to the ISI, Mr. Haqqani said that during the Soviet occupation of the 1980s, mujahideen fighters "had contacts with the intelligence agencies of Pakistan and other countries, but after the invasion by the Americans there have never been contacts by intelligence agencies of other countries which could be effective for us".

He said the Haqqanis "have been contacted and are being contacted by intelligence agencies of many Islamic and non-Islamic countries, including the U.S., asking us to leave the sacred jihad and take an important part in the current government".

Mr. Haqqani said that was not his network's responsibility, but he added: "We know that their aim is not peace, they want to create tension among the Emirate's mujahideen."

He said accusations of links to the ISI were an attempt "to hide their failure and to confuse peoples' minds".

Command structure
Mr. Haqqani vowed that "the game which is being played by the West... is close to an end".
He pledged loyalty to Mullah Omar, saying he "is our leader and we totally obey him".

"In every operation we get the order, planning and financial resources from the Emirate's leadership and we act accordingly," Mr. Haqqani said.

He also delivered a message to the "government and people of Pakistan", telling them to be "careful of their Islamic values. They should understand that America will not let Pakistan live a peaceful life until it destroys all the wealth and values of it."

After Rabbani's death, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said his government would no longer hold peace talks with the Taliban, but would instead focus on dialogue with Pakistan.

Mr. Karzai said: "[Taliban leader] Mullah Omar doesn't have an address... their peace emissary turns out to be a killer, whom should we talk to?

"The Afghan nation asks me who's the other party that you hold talks with? My answer is, Pakistan."

(Source: BBC)