Haqqani Network launched suicide attack at soccer game, Afghan intel claims

The National Directorate of Security (NDS), Afghanistan’s intelligence service, accused the Pakistan-supported Haqqani Network of executing yesterday’s mass-casualty suicide attack at a soccer match in Paktika province. The accusation has been made just as the US has extended the US military’s combat mission in Afghanistan for one year.

The NDS has “evidence that shows the Haqqani network was behind the attack in Paktika,” Haseeb Sediqi, the intelligence organization’s spokesman, told AFP today.

The Paktika suicide attack killed at least 57 people and wounded scores more. Many children are reported to have been killed or wounded.

Sediqi did not detail the nature of the evidence that linked the Haqqani Network to the attack. But the attack took place in Yahya Khel, a remote district in a province that is is heavily influenced by the Haqqanis, an al Qaeda-linked Taliban subgroup that receives support from the Pakistani military and intelligence services.

The suicide bomber is reported to have targeted Bawar Khan, a local police commander, and his police escort, according to Reuters. Khan, who was killed in the attack, had recently ejected the Taliban from the area.

The NDS has said in the past that it had evidence tying the Haqqani Network to other suicide attacks. The intelligence service released telephone conversations of Haqqani Network commanders Badruddin Haqqani and Qari Younis directing members of the suicide assault team that attacked the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul on June 28, 2011. Badruddin was killed in a US drone strike in Pakistan one year later.

Yesterday’s suicide attack in Paktika was followed by a bombing today in Kabul that killed two US soldiers and wounded another. Two US intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal said they believe that the Haqqani Network was behind today’s bombing, but did not elaborate.

The two attacks took place less than a week after a senior Pakistani adviser admitted that his government has no interest in pursuing the Haqqani Network. [See Threat Matrix report, Good Taliban are not our problem, adviser to Pakistan’s prime minister says.]

Also, President Barack Obama has backtracked on ending the US combat mission by the beginning of next year, administration officials told The New York Times. US forces will be allowed “to attack the Taliban, the Haqqani network and other militants if intelligence revealed that the extremists were threatening American forces in the country.” Additionally, US forces could accompany Afghan troops in operations as well as provide air support during combat operations.

The planned number of US forces deployed to Afghanistan has not changed, however; the US will draw down to 9,800 troops by the end of 2014, and below 5,000 by the end of 2015.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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