The operational commander of the Haqqani Network, the group behind some of the most high profile attacks in Afghanistan, may have been killed in a US drone strike, Pakistani and Afghan intelligence sources have said.
Pakistani officials said on Saturday that Badruddin Haqqani, the son of Afghan warlord Jalauddin Haqqani who is also believed to handle the network's business and smuggling operations, may have been killed in the North Waziristan region bordering Afghanistan.
"Our informers have told us that he has been killed in the drone attack on the 21st but we cannot confirm it," said one of the Pakistani intelligence officials.
Shafiquallh Tahriri, the spokesman for Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security, also said Haqqani was killed last week. He did not provide any further details, and would not say what information the agency's operatives were basing their conclusion on.
A Taliban spokesman in Afghanistan, however, has rejected the reports.
Zabiullah Mujahid said in an email sent to reporters late on Saturday that Badruddin Haqqani is "alive and healthy'' in Afghanistan.
If Badruddin's death is confirmed, it could deal a major blow to the Haqqani group, believed to be the group that introduced the practice of suicide bombing to Afghanistan, where it is allied with the Taliban.
"We are 90 per cent sure that he was in the same house which was attacked with a drone on Tuesday," another Pakistani intelligence official said.
Sources close to the Haqqani Network also said Badruddin was believed to be in the house, hit by a drone strike as
fighters were planting explosives in a vehicle meant to be used for an attack on NATO forces in Afghanistan.
"The drone fired two missiles on the house last Tuesday and killed 25 people, most of them members of the Haqqani family," one of the sources said.
However, one of Badruddin's relatives said he was alive and busy with his "jihad activities".
"Such claims are baseless," the relative told the Reuters news agency.
If confirmed, it would be the second high-profile death in a drone strike in Pakistan this week.
Maulvi Dadullah, a key commander of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) the Pakistani branch of the Taliban, was killed on Friday evening in NATO air strikes in Afghanistan's eastern province of Kunar, NATO and Afghan officials said.
"There were two separate air strikes in Kunar [province] yesterday. A total of 12 insurgents were killed, six in each air strike," a NATO spokesman told the AFP news agency on Saturday.
|The Pakistani Taliban have already named a replacement for Dadullah [EPA]
The commander, along with his deputy, Shakir, and 10 others believed to be fighters, were killed in the attack that wounded seven others, Major General Ewaz Mohammad Naziri, told the Pajhwok news service in Afghanistan.
Pakistani Taliban officials, as well as Pakistani intelligence officials said Dadullah had been killed in a house in eastern Kunar province.
A spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, Ahsanullah Ahsan, said Dadullah was killed in a drone strike in Kunar. He said Maulana Abu Bakar has been named as the new chief of the Bajur region.
Sayed Rahman, police chief of Kunar's Shigal district, where the attacks took place, said most of the dead were from neighbouring Pakistan.
Al Jazeera's Jennifer Glasse, reporting from Kabul, said fighters on either side often take advantage of the porous border between the neighbouring nations.
Referring to Pakistani groups such as the TTP, our correspondent said "when the Pakistani military put pressure on them, they cross over into Afghanistan, and vice versa".
Rahman also confirmed Dadullah's death, saying "Commander Dadullah, the top Taliban commander in Bajaur agency of
Pakistan, is also among the dead".
Although rumours of his death have circulated before, Glasse said "the fact that local officials are saying it's true, generally adds more credence" to the claims of Dadullah's death in an area that is often hard to gain access to.
A NATO statement describes Dadullah, also known as Jamal, as being responsible for "the movement of fighters and weapons, as well as attacks against Afghan and coalition forces".
Dadullah, in his forties, replaced Maulvi Faqir Mohammad last year after Mohammad told the media that the Taliban were holding peace talks with the government.
The group then replaced Mohammad with Dadullah to undercut the secret negotiations, Taliban commanders say.
Our correspondent said Dadullah's death would be a blow to the TTP "an organisation that has dogged Pakistan for a long time" now.
Last week, two dozen people, believed to be Taliban fighters, were killed in NATO air strikes in Chapa Dara district of Kunar as they gathered for a public execution.