Haqqani terror network founder may have died a year ago

Sirajjudin Haqqani, pictured, is said to have taken over leadership of the Haqqani network from his father.

Story highlights

  • Jalaluddin Haqqani died last year and is buried in Afghanistan's Khost province, sources say
  • But a Taliban spokesman insists Haqqani is still alive and is healthy
  • He was founder and chief of the Haqqani network, which operates in Pakistan and Afghanistan

Peshawar, Pakistan (CNN)For two years, the Afghan Taliban did not let on that its leader Mullah Mohammed Omar had died in a hospital. Now word is going around that another key leader of a prominent regional terror group may have died a year ago.

Jalaluddin Haqqani, the founder and chief of the Haqqani network is no longer alive, Asadullah, a key commander in the terror network, told CNN.
    Pakistani intelligence sources and a relative also said that the Haqqani network's leader and founder had died.
    But Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid in a statement to media rejected any reports of Haqqani's demise.
    He was ill recently, Mujahid said, but he's alive and back in good health.
    And Haqqani's immediate family has not confirmed his death.

    Haqqani network

    The Haqqani network, which for decades was responsible for kidnappings and suicide bombings against the United States and its allies, was formally designated a terrorist organization by the United States in 2012.
    It is linked with the Taliban and al Qaeda, is based in Waziristan, a tribal area of Pakistan, and also operates across the border in Afghanistan.
    Haqqani is the father of Sirajuddin Haqqani, who was named as the deputy chief of the Afghan Taliban on Friday after word of Omar's death.
    Taliban sources close to the network say the guerrilla commander turned terror leader died in 2014 after a prolonged illness. Haqqani has been inactive for many years, and there has been speculation that he may be dead.
    Asadullah said Haqqani had died almost a year ago and was buried in Afghanistan's Khost province, which borders Pakistan.
    An intelligence source, who did not wish to be identified, also said that Jalaluddin Haqqani had died of multiple ailments many months back and had been interred in Khost province.
    The source said he had not attended the funeral, but reports of the leader's death were true and the network was now being run by Sirajuddin Haqqani.

    Fought Soviets

    Jalaluddin Haqqani, of the Zardan tribe in Khost province, was among the pioneers who fought the Soviet troops. He later formed the Haqqani network, which proved one of the most dangerous militant groups for the US-led NATO troops after their 2001 invasion of Afghanistan in the hunt for al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.
    He served as a minister in the government of Professor Burhanudin Rabbani after the ouster of the Soviet-backed regime led by President Mohammad Najibullah. He then joined the Taliban when they overran the Afghan capital, Kabul, in September 1996.
    He lost three sons, Badaruddin, Mohammad and Ibrahim Haqqani, along with other family members, in drone strikes in North Waziristan, near the Afghan border, while another son, Naseer Haqqani, was gunned down in Islamabad.