KABUL, Afghanistan – Western forces in Afghanistan said Saturday they had captured a senior leader of the militant Haqqani network, the group blamed for high-profile attacks including a recent siege of the U.S. Embassy and NATO headquarters in Kabul, in an operation close to the porous Pakistani border.
Haji Mali Khan, the uncle of the group’s leader, Sirajuddin Haqqani, was armed at the time he was detained Tuesday but did not resist, NATO’s International Security Assistance Force said in a statement. Mali Khan was described as a key strategist for the group.
Word of Mali Khan’s seizure was kept quiet for several days, presumably so U.S. and Afghan forces could interrogate him and follow up on any intelligence leads.
Mali Khan reportedly served as an emissary between the Haqqani group and Baitullah Mehsud, the Pakistani Taliban chief who was killed in a suspected U.S. missile attack in 2009. The captured official is accused of establishing and managing bases in Paktia province near the Pakistani border and handling financial and logistical support for various militant operations.
The capture is a “significant milestone in the disruption of the Haqqani network,” the statement said. “Mali Khan moved forces from Pakistan to Afghanistan to conduct terrorist activity.”
It added that he had “oversight of operations in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.” A number of other insurgents, including his deputy, were captured along with Mali Khan.
The U.S. is considering adding the Haqqani network to its list of foreign terrorist organizations. The network was founded by Jalaluddin Haqqani, a warlord who made his name during the 1980s fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan.