A senior leader of Afghanistan’s Haqqani militant organization has been captured by NATO forces, according to the Afghanistan International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
Haji Mali Khan was detained by both Afghan and coalition forces in the southeastern Afghan province of Paktia on Tuesday, ISAF representatives said. Khan was heavily armed but did not resist.
Security forces detained Haji Mali Khan … He was one of the highest ranking members of the Haqqani network and a revered elder of the Haqqani clan, stated the ISAF.
[Mali Khan]… managed bases and had oversight of operations in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Mali Khan moved forces from Pakistan to Afghanistan to conduct terrorist activity.”
ISAF also described the capture as a significant milestone in the disruption of the Haqqani network.
The Haqqani network, which is active in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, has been blamed for a number of attacks on Western targets in Afghanistan, including an assault upon the U.S. embassy in Kabul.
More troubling, senior U.S. military officials, including Admiral Mike Mullen, has accused the Pakistani intelligence agency of having direct links to Haqqani. (Islamabad has vociferously denied the charge).
Khan is the uncle of Siraj Haqqani, the leader of the network and has also served as an envoy to Baitullah Mehsud, the former Pakistani Taliban leader who was killed in 2009, allegedly by a U.S. missile attack.
Haqqanis are believed to have close links with the Taliban and have pledged their loyalty to Mullah Omar, leader of that terror group.
NATO officials and others believe Mali Khan established military-style bases in Paktia and engineered money transfers to finance their operations.
An Afghan counter-terrorism official in Kabul told the BBC: “Mali Khan was in charge of suicide attacks, other attacks, money, finance and operations. He was not as brutal as other Haqqanis when it came to dealing with locals. For that he was liked and protected from time to time.
According to BBC, Haqqanis are also suspected of being involved in criminal activities, including carrying out kidnappings for profit, smuggling gemstones and guns and running protection rackets.
Haqqanis are also believed to have been behind the recent murder of former Afghan president and negotiator Burhanuddin Rabbani.