Afghanistan’s intelligence agency has dismantled the Kabul suicide bombing network that has been behind six deadly attacks inside the capital over the past two years. Seventeen members of the cell were detained, many of whom have been linked back to two Pakistan-based terror groups.
Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security, or NDS, obtained information on the cell after the deadly Jan. 17 suicide attack outside the German embassy in Kabul, Reuters reported. A suicide car bomber rammed into a convoy as it passed by the German embassy, killing four Afghan civilians and a US soldier.
The Kabul cell was run and manned by members of the notorious Haqqani Network and the Harkat ul-Mujahideen, two Pakistan-based groups that have received extensive support from Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence agency. A 23-year-old Pakistani national ran the terror cell, while all six suicide bombers involved in the attacks were Pakistanis, captive cell members told NDS. Three members of the group are still said to be on the loose.
The Haqqani Network
The Haqqani Network operates in the eastern Afghan provinces of Khost, Paktia, and Paktika and is based out of the Pakistani tribal area of North Waziristan. The network is run by former mujahedeen leader Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son Siraj. Both Jalaluddin and Siraj have close ties with al Qaeda and its leader, Osama bin Laden.
The Haqqanis also have extensive links with the Taliban and with Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence agency. The relationship with the ISI has allowed the Haqqani Network to survive and thrive in its fortress stronghold in North Waziristan. The Haqqanis control large swaths of the tribal area, and run a parallel administration with courts, recruiting centers, tax offices, and security forces. The Haqqanis have established multiple training camps and safe houses used by al Qaeda leaders and operatives as well as by Taliban foot soldiers preparing to fight in Afghanistan.
Siraj Haqqani has risen in prominence over the past two years. The US military has described Siraj as the primary threat to security in eastern Afghanistan and has offered a $200,000 reward for his capture. He is the senior Taliban military commander in eastern Afghanistan.
Siraj is believed to be the mastermind of the most deadly attacks inside Afghanistan, including the military-styled assault on the Serena Hotel and the attack on a parade in Kabul that targeted President Karzai. Most recently, a Haqqani Network suicide bomber killed 14 school children and 11 other Afghans in a suicide attack outside an outpost in Khost.
The US military has conducted multiple cross-border airstrikes against the Haqqani Network’s infrastructure in North Waziristan. Abu Laith al Libi, a senior military commander in Afghanistan as well as a leader within the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, was killed in a strike in January 2008 in one of more than a dozen strikes against Haqqani compounds in North Waziristan. The US also targeted the Haqqani-run Manba Ulom madrassa, which has served as a command center and meeting place for al Qaeda and Haqqani operatives.
Maulana Masood Azhar, a founder of the Harkat ul-Mujahideen and current leader of the Jaish-e-Mohammed.
The Harkat ul-Mujahideen, or HuM, is a Pakistan-based terror group that in the past has focused its operations on the disputed region of Jammu and Kashmir. But HuM has its roots in Pakistan’s tribal areas and the Northwest Frontier Province. HuM was initially formed to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan during the 1980s, but shifted its focus to Jammu and Kashmir after the Soviet defeat and withdrawal in 1989.
The terror group has received extensive backing from the Inter-Service Intelligence agency, but was weakened after Masood Azhar, one of the group’s leaders, was freed from an Indian jail after an airplane hijacking in Afghanistan in 1999. Azhar returned to Pakistan and created the Jaish-e-Mohammed terror group, attracting much of the cadre of the HuM into its ranks.
Another prominent member of HuM is senior al Qaeda operative Omar Saeed Sheikh. Omar was freed from an Indian prison along with Azhar in 1999. It is believed Omar served as the bagman for the Sept. 11 attacks. He is thought to have wired more than $100,000 to Mohammed Atta, the tactical commander of the Sept. 11 suicide teams.
Omar was arrested for the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002. And from his cell in the Hyderabad Jail, Omar plotted to kill former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Kiyani.
For more information on Pakistani support for terror groups, see Pakistan’s Jihad.