Taliban says founder of much-feared Haqqani network dies at 72

In this 1998 file photo, Jalaluddin Haqqani, founder of the militant group the Haqqani network, speaks during an interview in Pakistan. The Taliban say Haqqani, an ex-U.S. ally turned enemy, died Monday. He was 72.
In this 1998 file photo, Jalaluddin Haqqani, founder of the militant group the Haqqani network, speaks during an interview in Pakistan. The Taliban say Haqqani, an ex-U.S. ally turned enemy, died Monday. He was 72.
Mohammed Riaz

Rumors have circulated for years regarding the death of Jalaluddin Haqqani, founder of the militant Haqqani network, who had close ties to the Taliban and al-Qaida.

Haqqani hadn't been heard from in years, and in 2015 reports of his death were widespread. Those earlier reports were never confirmed.

The Taliban on Tuesday released a statement announcing that Haqqani had died after a long illness at the age of 72.

As reported by multiple news organizations, the Taliban statement read: "Just as he endured great hardships for the religion of Allah during his youth and health, he also endured long illness during his later years."

Haqqani died Monday inside Afghanistan, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

Haqqani had been ill and bed-ridden for several years. The AP reports he had Parkinson disease and had been paralyzed for the past 10 years.

"Because of his infirmity, Haqqani's network has been led by his son Sirajuddin Haqqani, who is also deputy head of the Taliban. Considered the most formidable of the Taliban's fighting forces, the Haqqani network has been linked to some of the more audacious attacks in Afghanistan," the AP reports.

Haqqani founded the network in the 1970s, and was a guerrilla leader who battled Soviet troops in the 1980s when they occupied Afghanistan. Haqqani was called a freedom fighter by President Reagan.

In 2012 the United States declared the Haqqani network a terrorist organization. Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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