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Taliban says leader of feared Haqqani network has died

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Taliban says leader of feared Haqqani network has died

Taliban says leader of feared Haqqani network has died
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The leader of one of Afghanistan's most feared militant groups has died after a long illness the Taliban has announced.

Jalaluddin Haqqani founded the Haqqani network, one of the most powerful groups in the Afghan insurgency, in the 1970s.

At one point he was an ally of the United States as it opposed the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and former US President Ronald Reagan had described Haqqani as a "freedom fighter."

His son Sirajuddin had been running the network whilst he was ill - he is now the deputy leader of the Afghan Taliban, with a five and half million euro bounty on his head.

Mohammad Radmanish, a spokesman for Afghanistan's defence ministry, said his death was not expected to mean any major change for the Haqqani network.

The network has been blamed by Afghan and U.S. security officials for some of the most devastating suicide attacks of the past decade - and in fact it was the group who introduced suicide bombing to Afghanistan.

Last year, a bomber believed to have been sent by the network blew himself up in the heart of the government and embassy district in the Afghan capital Kabul, killing about 150 people.

With hopes for peace talks raised by an unprecedented ceasefire in June, news of the death of one of the most notorious militant commanders comes at a sensitive time for both the Taliban and Kabul's Western-backed government.

Jalaluddin Haqqani's death has been reported a number of times over recent years and the reports have never been disproved.

A security official in Kabul, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to be quoted by name, said Afghan intelligence services believed that Haqqani had in fact died some three years ago.

The official said the announcement of the death should be seen in connection with increased pressure from the United States on Pakistan over U.S. accusations Pakistan is not doing enough to defeat militant groups on its territory.

U.S. and Afghan officials have long said the group was based in Pakistan's border region of North Waziristan, was for years close to al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and operated with the support of Pakistani intelligence services.

Pakistan has rejected that accusation and has pointed to the network's early links to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency as it grew in strength during the anti-Soviet Mujahideen war of the 1980s.

No comment was immediately available from the Pakistan.