Afghanistan blames Haqqani network for Kabul blast, 95 people and wounded 158 in the suicide bomb, former CIA assets now considered one of the most dangerous factions fighting US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Led by Sirajuddin Haqqani, who doubles as the Afghan Taliban’s deputy leader, the extremist group has been blamed for spectacular attacks across Afghanistan since after the US invasion.
Long suspected of links to Pakistan’s shadowy military establishment, the network was described by US Admiral Mike Mullen in 2011 as a “veritable arm” of Pakistani intelligence.
“When you hear US officials, including in private settings, talking about what worries them the most, they always talk about the Haqqanis,” said analyst Michael Kugelman, of the Wilson Center in Washington.
The group was founded by Jalaluddin Haqqani, an Afghan mujahideen commander fighting the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s with the help of the US and Pakistan.
Jalaluddin gained notoriety for his organisation and bravery, garnering attention from the CIA and a personal visit from US Congressman Charlie Wilson.
A fluent Arabic speaker, Jalaluddin also fostered close ties with Arab jihadists including Osama Bin Laden who flocked to the region during the war. Later, Jalaluddin became a minister in the Taliban regime.
Now designated a terrorist group by the US, the Haqqanis are known for their heavy use of suicide bombers.
The network has also been accused of assassinating top Afghan officials and holding kidnapped Westerners for ransom.
That includes recently released Canadian Joshua Boyle, his American wife Caitlan Coleman, and their three children – all born in captivity – as well as US soldier Bowe Bergdahl, who was released in 2014.
Taliban fighters flooded across the border into Pakistan after the US invasion of Afghanistan, where they regrouped before launching an insurgency against the Americans.
That included the Haqqanis, who coordinated attacks on NATO from across the border in their stronghold of Miran Shah, the biggest town in North Waziristan, one of Pakistan’s semi-autonomous border tribal areas.>