By Tim Foxley
Update, as at 30 May, 12.15 UK Time – press report, Hindustan Times: Taliban denies reports of Haqqani’s death
There has been some interesting Twitter chat about the possibility that the Jalaluddin Haqqani, Mujhideen fighter in the 1980s and now the figurehead of the “Haqqani Network” (HQN) insurgent/criminal force based in SE Afghanistan, may have died, possibly of natural causes (kidney failure has been mentioned). Much speculation and Taliban media spokesman denials. The story is most interesting to me as an indication of the way Taliban related news breaks into the open domain – confusion, rumour, denial, counter-denial…
I heard someone tell me with real conviction that they thought Haqqani the elder had died 2 or 3 years ago. If JH is dead, this might be news trickling in from days, weeks, months (years??) ago. Or it might not be true at all. My sense was that he had become a “nice to have” figurehead while the next generation of Haqqanis were getting on with the business of running HQN. It may possibly be of symbolic importance to both the US and the Taliban, but otherwise the war will continue…
I’ll let you know.
PS – it may be something, it may be nothing, but here is what I wrote a year ago on rumours of his ill-health:
By Tim Foxley, 4 May 2011: Jalaluddin Haqqani – media interview three years late?
Amidst all the Bin Laden and Taleban Spring Offensive stories in the media and open sources, I only just picked this up. A major pro-jihadi website (www.theunjustmedia.com), (but the not official Taleban website) posted a long interview with Jalaluddin Haqqani on Friday 29th April. It was picked up by a Pakistani newspaper and the interview reported in full. The key themes to the interview were a long first section discussing and refuting rumours of Haqqani’s ill-health or demise, followed by a confirmation that the Haqqani network were fully behind Mullah Omar and that there were no divisions between Haqqani and the Taleban. Beyond that, although it is an interesting read, nothing particularly significant, other than to note that it is rare for Haqqani to appear in the media and to give an interview.
One curious thing – at three points in the interview, reference is made to “more than seven years have passed since the Crusader occupation” and it turns out the interview was made in or around December 2008. I wondered why the interview has been reprinted at this particular time – to raise Haqqani’s profile in the absence of anything more recent? As a boost to the Spring operations?