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Al-Qaeda network leader killed in Pakistan

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Al-Qaeda network leader killed in Pakistan

By Rasool Dawar and Kathy Gannon (AP)

National Post

Nov. 12, 2013

Sparks suspicion Americans are behind action

The U.S. Treasury slapped sanctions on [Haqqani] in 2010

ISLAMABAD • Gunmen on the outskirts of Islamabad shot dead a senior leader of one of the most feared AlQaeda-linked groups fighting U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Nasiruddin Haqqani, a key financier of the Haqqani network, was killed by armed men on a motorcycle Sunday night in Bhara Kahu, only a few kilometres from the U.S. embassy.

He had stopped to buy bread at a bakery, said Tanveer Ahmed, who was nearby when the shooting occurred but only learned the dead man’s identity later. The attack left blood stains on the sidewalk and bullet holes in the bakery’s tiled wall.

The Haqqani network, a key ally of the Afghan Taliban, has pledged allegiance to its leader, Mullah Omar, though it operates fairly independently.

Mr. Haqqani’s presence in the Pakistani capital could raise questions in Washington. U.S. officials have accused Pakistan’s intelligence agency of supporting the Haqqani network as a key proxy in the Afghan war, an allegation Islamabad denies.

No one has yet claimed responsibility for the killing, but it will likely spark suspicion in Pakistan the Americans were behind it.

It comes less than two weeks after the U.S. outraged Pakistani officials by killing Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud in a drone strike a day before the government planned to invite him to peace talks.

Mr. Haqqani’s body was taken to Miran Shah in the North Waziristan tribal area, the network’s main sanctuary in Pakistan.

He was considered an important financier and emissary for the group, which is led by his brother, Sirajuddin Haqqani. It was founded by their father, Jalaluddin Haqqani, well-known for fighting the Soviets after they invaded Afghanistan in 1979.

The U.S. Treasury slapped sanctions on Nasiruddin Haqqani in 2010, adding him to its list of specially designated global terrorists. The move came after he travelled to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to raise money for the Haqqani network, Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

The U.S. has repeatedly demanded Pakistan target the network and other militants based in North Waziristan who carry out cross-border attacks against U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The Haqqani group is blamed for some of the most high-profile attacks in Afghanistan, especially in the capital Kabul.

Pakistan has refused to do so, claiming its troops are stretched too thin fighting domestic militants. But analysts widely believed the government is reluctant to cross the Haqqani network, believing it will be a key ally in countering the influence of arch-enemy India in Afghanistan after foreign forces withdraw.

Instead, the U.S. has resorted to targeting Haqqani members and their allies with drone attacks, sparking tension with Islamabad. A drone strike killed another Haqqani brother, Badruddin, in August 2012.

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