Haqqanis Deny Killing Afghan Peace Envoy
The operational leader of Taliban faction the Haqqani network denied killing the Afghan government's peace envoy Burhanuddin Rabbani, in an interview with the BBC released Monday.
Sirajuddin Haqqani also denied U.S. allegations that the Haqqanis, blamed for a string of high-profile attacks on Western targets in the Afghan capital, were currently linked to Pakistan's intelligence agency, the ISI.
"We haven't killed Burhanuddin Rabbani and this has been said many times by the spokespersons of the Islamic Emirate," he said, referring to the Taliban.
Afghan officials blamed the Taliban for the September 20 turban bombing that killed Rabbani in Kabul, saying the killer was Pakistani and that it was plotted by the Afghan Taliban's leadership body, the Quetta Shura, in Pakistan.
However, no Afghan officials have specifically accused the Haqqani network over the killing. The network is considered loyal to Taliban supreme leader Mullah Omar and has a seat on the Taliban leadership council.
President Hamid Karzai is reviewing his strategy for talking peace with the Taliban in the wake of the killing of Rabbani, who was chairman of the High Peace Council, his spokesman has said.
Haqqani said during the 1980s anti-Soviet resistance, mujahedeen fighters "had contacts with the intelligence agencies of Pakistan and other countries, but after the invasion by the Americans, there have never been contacts by intelligence agencies of other countries which could be effective for us."
He went on to claim that the United States and other countries had contacted the Haqqanis to try to persuade them to join the Afghan government, but accused them of trying to create "tension" among insurgents.
The group has "been contacted and are being contacted by intelligence agencies of many Islamic and non-Islamic countries, including the U.S., asking us to leave the sacred jihad and take an important part in the current government," he said.
The Haqqani network was founded by Jalaluddin Haqqani, a warlord who made his name during the 1980s fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan, when he received funding from Pakistan and the CIA.
But his son Sirajuddin now effectively runs the network, which has been blamed for recent attacks including a 19-hour siege in Kabul last month that targeted the U.S. embassy and international military headquarters.
The United States has recently stepped up pressure on Pakistan to tackle Haqqani rear bases on its soil.
The BBC, which posted the comments on its website, said it conducted the interview by submitting written questions to Haqqani, who then recorded an audio response.