Haqqani network fingered in Kabul terror attacks

KABUL, Afghanistan — A militant arrested in the attacks on the Afghan capital and three other cities has confessed that the 18-hour assault was carried out by the Haqqani network, a lethal group of fighters with ties to the Taliban and al-Qaida, a top Afghan security official said Monday.

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

KABUL, Afghanistan — A militant arrested in the attacks on the Afghan capital and three other cities has confessed that the 18-hour assault was carried out by the Haqqani network, a lethal group of fighters with ties to the Taliban and al-Qaida, a top Afghan security official said Monday.

Thirty-six insurgents were killed during the brazen attacks that also claimed the lives of eight policemen and three civilians, said Interior Minister Besmillah Mohammadi.

Though the death toll was much lower than in other attacks, the dramatic assault on multiple targets showed that militants are far from beaten and can still penetrate Afghan security — even in the heart of the capital — after 10 years of war. The attacks in Kabul, Nangarhar, Paktia and Logar provinces also underscored the security challenge facing government forces as U.S. and NATO troops draw down and prepare to leave by the end of 2014.

President Hamid Karzai said Monday the attacks were an “intelligence failure by us and especially NATO” that allowed the militants to enter Kabul and other targeted cities, and called for a full investigation. Karzai, however, praised the Afghan security forces’ response to the attacks.

It was the most widespread assault in the Afghan capital since an attack on the U.S. Embassy and NATO headquarters last September — also blamed on the Haqqani network, which commands the loyalties of an estimated 10,000 fighters considered one of the most serious threats to NATO in Afghanistan.

“One terrorist who was arrested in Nangarhar province confessed, saying ’It was the Haqqani network that launched these attacks,”’ Mohammadi told reporters in Kabul.

Afghan and U.S. officials are trying to coax the Taliban — who are not as closely linked with al-Qaida as the Haqqanis — to negotiate a political resolution to the war. If the Haqqani faction of the insurgency is behind the recent attacks, it could be easier to sell the idea of making peace with the Taliban to skeptics who say it amounts to making a deal with the enemy.

The Haqqanis, led by Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son Sirajuddin, operate primarily in provinces along Afghanistan’s eastern border with Pakistan. NATO spokesman Carsten Jacobson once described the group as a “family clan, a criminal patronage network and a terrorist organization.”

Former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen said in October 2011 the Haqqanis acts as a “veritable arm” of the Pakistani intelligence agency — an accusation Islamabad denied. Mullen accused the network of staging the Sept. 13 attack on the U.S. Embassy and NATO headquarters, as well as a truck bombing that wounded 77 American soldiers in Wardak province.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said the attacks had been planned for two months to show the insurgency’s potency after NATO officials called the Taliban weak. He told The Associated Press on Monday that they did not mark the start of the insurgents’ spring offensive, which would begin shortly.

“It is a message for the spring offensive but it has not yet started,” Mujahid said.

The attacks on the Afghan capital ended Monday morning when insurgents who were holed up overnight in two buildings were overcome by heavy gunfire from Afghan-led forces and pre-dawn air assaults from U.S.-led coalition helicopters.

Rocket-propelled grenades were fired one after another into a building in the centre of the city, from where the insurgents launched one of their attacks on Sunday. The building, which is under construction, overlooks the presidential palace, Western embassies and government ministries. The U.S., German and British embassies and some coalition and Afghan government buildings took direct and indirect fire, according to Lt. Col. Jimmie Cummings, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition.

“A Haqqani connection is a possibility, but still too early to determine for sure,” said Cummings, the NATO spokesman. “We will look strongly at that.”

Shortly before 3 a.m., coalition helicopters began flying over the structure. At 4:23 a.m. a religious cleric began calling Muslim worshippers to prayer over a loudspeaker in the area. During the next 15 minutes, troops launched five rocket-propelled grenades into the building. More followed.

By about 6:30 a.m., the blasts and shooting had stopped. Fighting there and at another building under construction near the Afghan parliament building on the southwest side of the city ended just before 8 a.m.

“The terrorists tried to harm the process of transferring security to the Afghan forces, but they are not able to do it,” Mohammadi said. “They want to create fear among the people.”

Apart from Kabul, the eastern capitals of Paktia, Logar and Nangarhar provinces also came under attack Sunday as suicide bombers tried to storm a NATO base, an airport and police installations there.

One of nine suicide bombers who attacked in Logar province got away, but was arrested on Monday morning, said Kaer Ahmadzai, spokesman for the police in Logar province. A coalition patrol helicopter saw one of the militants move to another building and Afghan security forces went to the site and apprehended him, Ahmadzai said.

Gen. Ghulam Sakhi Roogh Lawanay, police chief in Logar province, said investigators were convinced that the Haqqani network orchestrated Sunday’s attack in Logar.

“We found mobile phones and documents and the telephone numbers showed that there was contact between a remote area in Afghanistan and the Pakistani side of the border,” he said. “The Haqqani network was behind the attack.”

Also on Monday, Lutfullah Mashal, a spokesman for the Afghan intelligence service, said that the two suicide bombers and another insurgent arrested on Sunday on the west side of the city have confessed to being members of the Haqqani network. He said the three are suspected of plotting to kill Karim Khalili, one of Afghanistan’s two vice-presidents.

———

Associated Press writers Patrick Quinn, Heidi Vogt and Amir Shah in Kabul contributed to this report.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The first Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine dose in Canada is prepared at The Michener Institute in Toronto on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn)
Not all long-term care workers have received their vaccines including a Red Deer facility

There continues to be confusion in long-term care and supportive living facilities… Continue reading

Cattle graze winter pasture in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies near Longview, Alta. on Jan. 8, 2004. Concern over the provincial government’s decision to drop a coal policy that has protected the eastern slopes of the Rockies for decades is growing among area communities. At least six cities, towns and municipal districts in southwest Alberta have now expressed concern about the decision and the fact it was made with no consultation. The latest is Longview, where mayor Kathie Wight is drafting a letter to the government opposing the move. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
More southern Alberta communities voice concern over province’s plans to expand coal

Concern over the Alberta government’s decision to drop a coal policy that… Continue reading

Some residents say there is no longer an effective Nordegg fire department to respond to emergencies in the West Country. (Contributed photo).
Some Nordegg residents worry about lack of emergency response in the West Country

The possibility of wildfires or accidents is ‘scary’ says former fire leader

(Advocate file photo).
Red Deer RCMP is reminding drivers to not leave running vehicles unoccupied

Red Deer RCMP say six idling vehicles in the city were stolen… Continue reading

Mom's Diner owner Wesley Langlois has joined a growing number of Alberta restaurants that are allowing sit-in dining despite public health restrictions.
Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
Red Deer diner joins sit-down dining protest

Mom’s Diner has joined a growing list of Alberta restaurants flouting health restrictions

In this undated image made from a video taken by the Duke of Sussex and posted on @SaveChildrenUK by the Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, shows the Duchess of Sussex reading the book “Duck! Rabbit!” to their son Archie who celebrates his first birthday on Wednesday May 6, 2020. The Canadian Paediatric Society is reminding families that the process of raising a reader starts from birth. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Duke of Sussex/@SaveChildrenUK via AP MANDATORY CREDIT
Canadian Paediatric Society says raising a reader starts from birth

The Canadian Paediatric Society is reminding families that the process of raising… Continue reading

People wearing face masks as a precaution against the coronavirus walk past a depiction of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., in Philadelphia, Monday, Jan. 25, 2021. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Bernie Sanders’ mittens, memes help raise $1.8M for charity

About those wooly mittens that U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders wore to the… Continue reading

Bags of methamphetamine seized at Coutts, Alta., border crossing is shown in this December 2020 handout photo. The Canada Border Services Agency says it has made Canada’s largest-ever seizure of methamphetamine at an Alberta land border crossing from the United States. The agency says on Christmas Day, it flagged a produce truck at the Coutts border crossing for further inspection. Officers found more than 228 kilograms of meth with an estimated street value of $28.5 million. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Canada Border Services Agency
Alberta border agents made record meth bust after pulling over produce truck

COUTTS, Alta. — The Canada Border Services Agency says officers in southern… Continue reading

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021. Quebec’s director of national health says he’s still not sure when the province will begin administering COVID-19 booster shots — 42 days since officials started injecting people with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Calculated risk or gamble: Experts differ on merits of Quebec’s vaccine strategy

MONTREAL — Quebec’s director of national health said he’s still not sure… Continue reading

This electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, in yellow, emerging from the surface of cells, blue/pink, cultured in a lab. The Canadian Armed Forces is dealing with a dramatic increase in the number of troops who have been infected with COVID-19 over the past month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-NIAID-RML via AP
Canadian military dealing with surge in new COVID-19 infections since December

OTTAWA — The Canadian Armed Forces is dealing with a dramatic increase… Continue reading

Advocates for the homeless hold a protest against the COVID-19 curfew Monday, January 11, 2021 in Montreal. The Quebec government says it will not challenge a temporary court order granted Tuesday that exempts the homeless from a provincewide curfew imposed to limit the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Quebec to exempt homeless from curfew after court finds measure endangered safety

MONTREAL — The Quebec government said Wednesday it will not challenge a… Continue reading

People march towards Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland’s office in Toronto, during a rally led by current and former international students calling for changes to immigration rules during COVID-19, on Sept. 12, 2020. A new work permit program for international students in Canada is taking applications starting today. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin
New work permit program for international graduates in Canada taking applications

A new work-permit program aimed at encouraging international students to settle in… Continue reading

A fire-destroyed property registered to Gabriel Wortman at 200 Portapique Beach Road is seen in Portapique, N.S. on May 8, 2020. Three people who allegedly supplied ammunition to the gunman who murdered 22 people in the April 18-19 mass shooting in Nova Scotia are scheduled for court hearings today. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Lawyer for accused in ammo transfer to N.S. shooter criticizes lack of disclosure

HALIFAX — A lawyer for one of three people who allegedly supplied… Continue reading

Most Read