Click to view slide show of commanders in the Haqqani Network. Pictured is a composite image of Siraj Haqqani.
Yesterday’s airstrike in the Taliban-controlled tribal of North Waziristan in Pakistan is thought to have killed a son of the leader of the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network.
Mohammed Haqqani, one of 12 sons of Jalaluddin Haqqani, is reported to have been killed in the Feb. 18 airstrike in Danda Darpa Khel just outside of Miramshah, the main town in North Waziristan. Four Haqqani Network fighters were initially reported killed after an unmanned US Predator fired two missiles at a compound and a vehicle in the town.
“Mohammed Haqqani, son of Jalaluddin Haqqani, was killed in yesterday’s attack along with two foreign operatives and a local tribesman,” a senior Pakistani security official told AFP. “Mohammed was not actively involved in the movement but his place was used as a hideout for Arab foreign militants.”
“It is a big loss for the family and for the Taliban,” Nek Daraz, a Taliban official in Miramshah said. “We will take revenge for his death on US and NATO forces in Afghanistan.”
US intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal said they were aware of the reports of Mohammed’s death and indicated they believe the reports are true. The US officials also said Mohammed was not a senior leader in the Haqqani Network, but was a military commander.
“We would really have liked to have killed his brother instead,” a military intelligence official said, referring to Siraj Haqqani, the dangerous military commander of the Haqqani Network who is slated to take over for his father.
“Siraj was the target, he is the one we are after,” the official continued. “Getting Mohammed is a good sign, but we felt we’ve been close before.”
Siraj is one of 12 sons of Jalaluddin. He has risen in prominence over the past few years. He is believed to be the mastermind of the most deadly attacks inside Afghanistan and to be the senior military commander in the eastern Afghan provinces of Paktia, Paktika, and Khost. The US military has described Siraj as the primary threat to security in eastern Afghanistan.
Siraj is considered dangerous not only for his ties with the Afghan Taliban, but also because of his connections with al Qaeda’s central leadership, which extend all the way to Osama bin Laden. On March 25, 2009, the US Department of State put out a $5 million bounty for information leading to the capture of Siraj.
The US has targeted Siraj multiple times in the past three years. Danda Darpa Khel is home to the Haqqanis’ madrassa, the Manba Ulom. The US has carried out seven of the 115 airstrikes since 2004 in the Haqqanis’ home town. [For up-to-date charts on the US air campaign in Pakistan, see: Charting the data for US airstrikes in Pakistan, 2004 – 2010.]
Several of Jalaluddin’s sons are deeply involved in the leadership of the terror network. Naisruddin is a top military leader in the Haqqani Network in North Waziristan. Badruddin is a military commander who coordinates attacks against Coalition and Afghan forces in eastern Afghanistan. Omar was killed leading Haqqani Network fighters during a US military operation in Khost province in July 2008.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.