The Taliban threatened to attack “judicial installations” if the Afghan government follows through on executing Anas Haqqani, the brother of the group’s deputy emir who is also the operational leader of the Haqqani Network. Anas was detained in 2014 along with Qari Abdul Rasheed Omari, the Haqqani Network’s military commander for southeastern Afghanistan, after visiting the five Taliban leaders in Qatar who were exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl, the US soldier who deserted his unit in 2009 and was captured by the Taliban.
“Last time after the execution of the political prisoners many judicial installations were attacked giving severe blow to the government,” the Taliban said in a statement released on its official website, Voice of Jihad, on Sept. 2.
“If the higher courts also uphold the death sentence to Anas Haqqani, it will have very disastrous and dangerous consequences for the current regime,” it continued. “The war and its intensity will increase in all parts of the country. A lot of blood will be spilled and the government will be responsible for all of it.”
An Afghan court purportedly sentenced Anas to death in late August, Zee News reported at the end of the month.
Anas is the son of Jalaluddin Haqqani, the founder of the Haqqani Network who serves as a member of the Quetta Shura, the Taliban’s executive council. Anas’ brother, Sirajuddin, is the operational commander of the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network who was named as one of the two deputies to Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, the emir of the Taliban, in May 2016. Sirajuddin wields significant influence within the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, and is also linked to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate.
The Taliban dispute the method of the detention of Anas and Rashid, a.k.a. Qari Abdul Rashid Omari, the younger brother of Mohammad Nabi Omari. Omari is a senior Taliban official who was held at Guantanamo beginning in late 2002. The Taliban have also said that the two were detained illegally.
In October 2014, the National Directorate of Security (NDS), Afghanistan’s intelligence service, claimed it captured Anas and Rashid during a special operations raid in Khost province, where the Haqqani Network is active. [See Threat Matrix report, Afghan intel agency captures two senior Haqqani Network leaders.]
The NDS claimed that Anas “has special skills in computer and was considered one of the master minds of this network in making propaganda through social networks. He was responsible for collecting and preparing funds from Arabic countries to carry out operations of this network.”
Rashid, according to the NDS, “was responsible of choosing targets and providing equipment to the suicide bombers,” that traveled from Peshawar, Pakistan to North and South Waziristan to their ultimate destination of the Afghan capital of Kabul. At the time of his capture, he was “a military commander of [the] Haqqani Network in south eastern provinces of Afghanistan” and previously served as the shadow governor of Ismailkhil district in Khost. [See Threat Matrix report, Afghan intel agency captures two senior Haqqani Network leaders.]
At the time of their capture, the Taliban claimed that Anas and Rashid were actually detained by the US in Bahrain, and transferred back to Qatar and then to Afghanistan into the custody of the NDS. The Taliban’s statement could not be independently verified. The US, Afghan, and Qatari governments have not discussed the detention of the two Haqqani Network leaders.
In addition to its claim that Anas and Rashid were detained illegally, the Taliban have maintained that Anas had no involvement in the group. After he was initially captured, the Taliban maintained that Anas was “a Talib-ul-ilm (student) in his last year of studies who does not have an affiliation with any current political movements.” [See LWJ report, Taliban claims captured Haqqani leaders visited ex-Gitmo detainees in Qatar.]
In its most recent statement, the Taliban said that Anas is “an ordinary student of religious school. He is also one of those members of his family who is not sanctioned by any authority because he was not involved in any political or military activity. There was no prize money on his head as he was not involved in any military or other activity.”
While the Taliban’s claim that Anas is not on the US list of specially designated global terrorists nor is he named on the Rewards for Justice website as a wanted individual, there are numerous Taliban commanders who are not on these lists.
In addition to claiming that Anas and Rashid were detained illegally and that Anas is an innocent, the Taliban maintain that US violated its agreement with the Taliban on the release of the so-called Taliban Five. According to the group, the Taliban Five were allowed to receive visits from their family members.
However, given Omari’s past history with the Taliban and al Qaeda, Anas’ role as a fundraiser (the NDS said he was “collecting and preparing funds from Arabic countries” at the time of his arrest) and Rashid’s role as military commander, and the fact that Qatar serves as a nest for jihadist fundraising activities, it is more likely that the purpose of Anas and Rashid’s visit consisted of more than a simple family visit.
Additionally, at least one of the Taliban Five is “has attempted to return to militant activity from his current location in Qatar by making contact with suspected Taliban associates in Afghanistan,” CNN reported in January 2015, three months after Anas and Rashid’s arrest. Less than two months later, FOX News reported that at least three members of the Taliban Five have tried to reestablish contact with jihadists in Afghanistan, with one of them “trying to provide advice, council or inspiration.” However, neither report named the Taliban leaders who attempted to reengage in jihadist activities.