Kabul – The Taliban on Saturday denied reports of the death of the founder of Haqqani network, its allied militant group blamed for some of the deadliest attacks in Afghanistan.
Some Pakistani media reported the death of Jalaluddin Haqqani, said to be in his 70s, on Friday when his son Sirajuddin was announced as one of the deputy chiefs of the Taliban following the death of its longtime leader Mullah Omar.
“Some media outlets spread reports… about the death of a distinguished jihadi personality… Jalaluddin Haqqani,” the Taliban said in a statement posted on their website.
“This claim has no basis. Haqqani… was ill before but he has been blessed with good health for a prolonged period now and has no troubles currently.”
Haqqani’s family also rejected rumours of his death, according to an Afghan Taliban commander who spoke to AFP from an undisclosed location in northwestern Pakistan.
“I talked to his grandson (who is somewhere in eastern Afghanistan) and he completely rejected rumours of his death,” the commander said.
“‘My grandfather is alive, I talked to him last week. He was weak and sick but alive and in good spirits’, he told me.”
The Afghan Taliban named Mullah Akhtar Mansour as their new chief on Friday, a historic power transition that raises hopes a more moderate leadership will pave the way for peace talks despite divisions within insurgent ranks.
The Taliban also announced his deputies — Sirajuddin, who has a $10 million US bounty on his head, and Haibatullah Akhundzada, former head of the Taliban courts.
Formed 30 years ago to counter the Soviet invasion in the 80s, the Haqqani network is militarily the most capable and most dangerous of the Taliban factions.
The group was blamed for some of the deadliest attacks in Afghanistan, including the Indian embassy bombing and the attack on Kabul Serena Hotel in 2008, and the 2009 coordinated attacks on the Afghan justice ministry.
The group is present both in its stronghold in eastern Afghanistan and in the tribal districts of North Waziristan in Pakistan’s restive northwest along the Afghan border.
During the last decade, Jalaluddin vanished from the jihadist front and transferred the management of his empire to his jihadist son, Sirajuddin.
Washington designates both father and son as “global terrorists”.
A Saudi diplomatic cable recently made public by Wikileaks said the Saudi ambassador to Pakistan met in 2012 with Nasiruddin Haqqani, Jalaluddin’s other son and chief fundraiser for the group.
In the meeting, Nasiruddin requested treatment for his ailing father in Saudi Arabia, said the cable, which could not be independently verified by AFP.