KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan’s intelligence agency said on Sunday that a senior commander from the Pakistani Taliban sold a suicide bomber to an Afghan militant network, to carry out an attack on a local commander in eastern Afghanistan.
Relations between the neighbors are already strained by weeks of cross-border shelling of Afghanistan’s east. Pakistan denies more than “a few accidental” rounds have landed in Afghanistan; Kabul says hundreds have hit.
The National Directorate of Security (NDS), Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, said the bomber was a Pakistani national and was detained by NDS agents in Jaji Maidan district of eastern Paktia province before he could carry out his mission.
Sher Hassan was sent by the Haqqani network, considered one of the most dangerous insurgent groups fighting in Afghanistan, but had not signed up to join them, the NDS said in a statement.
Instead he said he was bought by the group to target “Azizullah,” a commander whose affiliation and rank were not given by the NDS. Hassan then spent a month after his sale training with the Haqqani network.
“The detained man added that a commander under Hakimullah Mehsud sells suicide bombers at 6,000,000 to 8,000,000 Pakistani rupees ($70,000 to $93,000), to the Haqqani network for suicide missions,” the statement said.
Mehsud is the leader of Pakistan’s Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), or the Taliban Movement of Pakistan, blamed for many suicide bombings across Pakistan. The statement did not say what price Hassan had fetched, nor how he had been detained.
Parts of east Afghanistan share a long, and porous border with the often lawless tribal areas of neighboring Pakistan where insurgents targeting both the Pakistan state and Afghanistan — including the Haqqani — have their hideouts.
The Haqqani network, led by Jalaluddin Haqqani, is allied with the Taliban but also believed to be closely linked to al Qaeda and the architect of several high-profile attacks in Afghanistan, including a brutal gun battle inside a bank.
Effective daily management of the group has passed from Jalaluddin Haqqani, who forged his reputation fighting the Soviet occupation of the 1980s but is now thought to be ill, to Sirajuddin, his eldest son.
Violence has flared across Afghanistan since the Taliban announced a spring offensive at the beginning of May. The detention of Hassan comes days after a group of suicide bombers staged a brazen attack on a landmark hotel in western part of capital Kabul that killed at least ten.
Afghan officials say sanctuaries inside Pakistan’s borders help militants to train, rest, and recruit fighters before crossing into Afghanistan to stage attacks.
Reporting by Hamid Shalizi; Editing by Emma Graham-Harrison