KABUL (Reuters) - Afghan forces have arrested the son of the feared Haqqani network’s founder along with a militant commander in charge of suicide attacks, a blow to the Taliban-linked Islamist group, Afghanistan’s intelligence service said Thursday.
The Haqqani network, which mainly operates out of Pakistan’s border areas, has been blamed for some of the deadliest and most sophisticated attacks on NATO and Afghan troops in Afghanistan.
Anas Haqqani was in charge of raising funds “from individuals from Arab countries” and recruitment through social media, the National Directorate for Security (NDS) said in a statement. He was arrested on Tuesday.
He is the son of Jalaluddin Haqqani, the former anti-Soviet guerrilla commander who founded the network, which professes obedience to Taliban leader Mullah Omar and also has ties to al Qaeda.
Anas Haqqani was also a special adviser to his brother, Sarajuddin Haqqani, the network’s leader, the NDS said. Jalaluddin Haqqani is reportedly in ill health and has given up most day-to-day control.
Also arrested on Tuesday was the Haqqani network commander for southeastern Afghanistan, Hafiz Rashid, who was in charge of selecting targets and providing equipment for suicide bombers in Kabul, the capital, and in the eastern province of Khost, the NDS said.
The intelligence agency did not give any details of the arrests, though it did issue another statement later on Thursday correcting reports that the two were captured in Khost.
Another Haqqani son, chief financier Nasiruddin, was shot dead in November last year in Islamabad by unknown assailants.
The Haqqani network’s attacks have included assaults on hotels popular with foreigners in Kabul, a bloody bombing of the Indian embassy, a 2011 attack on the U.S. embassy, and several big truck bombing attempts.
Late last year, the Obama administration created a special unit based in Kabul to coordinate efforts against the militant group, officials familiar with the matter told Reuters in February.
The unit, headed by a colonel and known in military parlance as a “fusion cell”, brings together special forces, conventional forces, intelligence personnel, and some civilians to improve targeting of Haqqani members and to heighten the focus on the group, the officials said at the time.
Writing by Kay Johnson; Editing by Robert Birsel