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Top Haqqani Network leaders include Arab relatives

In yesterday's Reuters article about the capture of Haji Mali Khan, the top Haqqani Network commander for Afghanistan, we at The Long War Journal noticed an interesting tidbit:

Members of the Haqqani network declined to comment on the ISAF statement, but confirmed to Reuters that Khan is Sirajuddin Haqqani's maternal uncle. They said he was not a senior commander but his relatives are involved in the Haqqanis' fight against NATO forces in Afghanistan.

The initial ISAF press release announcing Mali's capture described him as the uncle of Siraj Haqqani and the brother of Jalaluddin Haqqani, patriarch of the network. [Note: The ISAF press release has since been corrected and no longer states that Mali is a brother of Jalaluddin.]

In trying to understand some of the kinship relationships between the Haqqani Network's top leaders, it is helpful to look at the "Haqqani Network Family Tree" published in Jeffrey Dressler's "Afghanistan Report 6: The Haqqani Network" back in October 2010.

Dressler's tree shows that Jalaluddin Haqqani had at least two wives, one from the Zadran tribes in eastern Afghanistan, and the other an Arab. The tree also shows that sons born to each of the wives have gone into the family business. Jalaluddin's sons by the Zadran wife include Badruddin, Baseeruddin, and Mohammad Omar; all three are known to have served as network operatives and leaders. Mohammad Omar was killed by a drone strike in Paktia province in February 2010. Badruddin was designated a global terrorist by the US in May 2011.

Siraj Haqqani, the overall operational leader of the Haqqani Network, is a son of Jaluddin by his Arab wife. According to Dressler's tree, one of Jalaluddin's brother-in-laws is Ghazi Khan. It is probable that Mali Khan, described by the Haqqanis yesterday as an uncle of Siraj on the maternal side, is related to Ghazi.

Other sons of Jalaluddin's Arab wife include Nasiruddin, listed by the US as a global terrorist in July 2010, and Nasir Ahmed.

The family business extends to more distant relatives as well: Ahmad, a nephew of Siraj, was detained in Pakistan in 2005; and Saifullah, a first cousin of Siraj, was killed in September 2010. [See Threat Matrix report, Siraj Haqqani's cousin reported killed in Waziristan strike.] The fact that Ahmad and Saifullah apparently did not bear the Haqqani surname may indicate that they, like Mali Khan, are relatives of one of Jalaluddin's wives.

As Dressler observes, Siraj Haqqani's mixed Afghan and Arab ancestry has enabled him to forge powerful links with jihadists from the Arab world as well as nearer to home:

Siraj allegedly won over Jalaluddin's sons born to his Zadran wife, including Nasir Ahmad and Ibrahim, who view him as the unchallenged leader of the network. Although the exact reason for their decision to recognize Siraj is unknown, his Arab lineage may have been preferred given the network's increasingly influential role amongst foreign militants in North Waziristan. .... Unlike his father Jalaluddin, Siraj has grown up interacting with foreign Islamic extremists in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Dubai, where his Arab mother reportedly lives. U.S. intelligence officials describe Siraj as "a lot more worldly than his father... not content with his father's methods." This may include an aversion to any sort of political settlement, as he and his younger cadre have no experience in politics. For this reason, the ISI likely sees the Haqqani network as their most reliable Afghan proxy. [footnotes omitted]

Dressler's tree also includes a note stating that "Haqqani's wife, sister, sister-in-law, & 8 grandchildren killed in drone strike in Pakistan, September 2008." There were a number of strikes on insurgent targets in Pakistan in early September 2008, but the strike on a known Haqqani compound on Sept. 8, 2008 may have been the one that killed Jalaluddin's Zadran wife and several relatives. [See LWJ report, Haqqanis attack Pakistani forces in North Waziristan.]

Another person of interest in the Haqqani family is Jalaluddin's younger brother Ibrahim Omari, who served as a Taliban commander in Afghanistan but then reportedly rejected the movement in March 2002 and was offered the post of military commander of Paktia province by Hamid Karzai. His whereabouts are currently unknown, although some say he returned to Pakistan, and he appears to have switched sides again. Dressler's tree shows him as the Haqqani Network's foreign fighter liaison in Miramshah, Pakistan. News reports from earlier this year noted his involvement in the secret peace talks that were held directly between the US government and the Taliban before they were scuttled by the Afghan government, which was holding its own peace talks through the High Peace Council. Given Ibrahim's role in the former negotiations, and the suggestion in some quarters that the Haqqani Network might be implicated in the assassination of Burhanuddin Rabbani, chairman of the Afghan High Peace Council, it is not inconceivable that Ibrahim may be linked to Rabbani's demise.

READER COMMENTS: "Top Haqqani Network leaders include Arab relatives"

Posted by mike merlo at October 2, 2011 7:40 PM ET:

Excellent info. More raw data awaiting quantification.

Posted by Kumar Venkat at October 2, 2011 9:13 PM ET:

The critical role played by persons of Arab origin in sustaining extremism in Af-Pak border regions has been chronicled in the writingos of late Pakistani writer Shazed. He has described how key Arab operatives in AQ were trained to instigate the religious-minded and somewhat gullible Pakistanis and Afghans into taking extremist positions so that Pak military was busy elsewhere and not in the Af-Pak border. Persons of Arab origin seem to play in this dangerous conflict zone a role that is similar to what Russian nationals were supposed to have played in Central and Western Europe, especially Germany, in the years leading to the WW2.

Posted by Villiger at October 2, 2011 11:56 PM ET:

Is Khan an arabic name? Muslim for sure, but arabic, i'm not sure...

Posted by riz at October 3, 2011 9:12 AM ET:

No Khan is not particular Arabic or muslim.
Khan as a surname is used by Arabs,Indians,central asian Turkish peoples,Persians',mongols etc alot ofsouth asians have this name.
I myself know a few hindus with the surname Khan so it has nothing to do with religion.

Posted by Kulamarva Balakrishna at October 3, 2011 12:32 PM ET:

I hope some young women launch a website
Khadija Bint Khuwaylid Forum to assert womenīs
rights in the Muslim World linking up with the
Saudi Young Women4Drive movement.That will
impact on the Prophetīs child wife driven Sharia
Laws.The forum should focus Muslim Womenīs
right to monogamy,equal rights with males, rights
to show their face and to mix with opposite sex freely.
All the women irrespective of their religion in the
Crisis of Crescent region should be involved. They
should be backed by the rest of the world females
and males. This would eliminate potential new
recruits to Al-Queda and Mullah Omerīs Taliban.
I appreciate the backgrounder piece.Well done.
Taravadu Taranga Trust for Media Monitoring TTTMM
India -- Kulamarva Balakrishna

Posted by Villiger at October 3, 2011 12:42 PM ET:

Riz, thanks for your response.

Khan is also the 80th most common family name in Britain and al jaz and bbc watchers are familiar with at least one with your name.

My point is, I lived in the Arab world for 5 yrs and i never met or heard of or read about a single Arab with the name Khan.

I researched it further:


And while there may be Hindus with the name Khan, it is very much primarily a muslim name, but i don't believe Arab which is where this contradicts/questions key aspects of the story. Of course it is not uncommon for this lot of people to have a string of aliases.

While on names, the name is Villiger and i do know how to spell. No offence meant or taken :-)

Posted by mike merlo at October 4, 2011 12:41 PM ET:

I always thought 'Khan' was a 'title' that had multiple usages?

Posted by villiger at October 4, 2011 9:12 PM ET:

Still doesn't make it Arabian.

Turkic, Mongols, Afghan, pan-Central/South Asia, yes. But not Arab.

So, if 'Haji Mali Khan' is an Arab, what is his real name?

Or, is he Arab at all? And if he is, which country?

At least his interrogators would know this and, by now, much more.