Top Pakistani Militant Leader Is Killed, but Not by a Drone

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The top financier of Pakistan's leading militant group (and the son of its founder) was shot dead in the street on Sunday, leaving unanswered questions about who was responsible for his killing. Nasiruddin Haqqani was reportedly killed by a group of gunmen in the city of Rawalpindi, near the capital of Islambad. His father, Jalaluddin, is the founder of the Haqqani Network, an affiliation of Islamist militant that is allied with the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The Haqqanis have frequently done battle with and been targeted by U.S. forces in the region, though usually not in this manner. One of Nasiruddin's brothers was killed in an American drone strike last year, while another brother is currently the "operational commander" of the network. All the brothers and their father were on the U.S.'s terrorism wanted list.

In this instance, however, it's not clear what role if any, the American government might have played in Haqqani's death. While they continue to operate drones in the region (the last attack was just 10 days ago) it seems unlikely they would even attempt an assassination of this type from within Pakistan. Particularly since Haqqani frequently leaves the country to raise money for the network's activities, making him a potential target for arrest.

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The Pakistani government is also not taking credit and will likely face heat for allowing Nasiruddin's death. A Taliban spokesperson in Pakistan blamed the nation's intelligence services for his death, but a different report claims it was a matter of "internal conflict." (The group has also been accused of being linked to Pakistan's intelligence agencies, so their loyalties and rivalries can be quite fluid.) Nasiruddin was also credited with helping to set up Taliban offices in Qatar, which were supposed to facilitate peace negotiations with Afghanistan; even though those negotiations have so far amounted to very little. 

So we still don't know if Haqqani's death was part of international intelligence effort, an attack from a Pakistani rival, or even just a random crime. Whatever the case, it could be a serious blow to militant group's ability to organize and operate.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.