ISLAMABAD — Pakistani intelligence officials confirmed Thursday that a U.S. drone strike last week near the Afghan border killed the son of the founder of the powerful Haqqani militant network, a major blow to one of the most feared groups fighting American troops in Afghanistan.
Badruddin Haqqani, who has been described as the organization’s day-to-day operations commander, was killed Aug. 24 in one of three strikes that hit militant hideouts in the Shawal Valley in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal area, said two senior intelligence officials. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk to the media.
The presence of the mostly Afghan Haqqani Network in North Waziristan has been a major source of friction between Pakistan and the U.S.
The Obama administration repeatedly has demanded that Pakistan prevent the group from using its territory to launch attacks in Afghanistan, but Islamabad has refused — a stance many analysts believe is driven by the country’s strong historical ties to the Haqqani Network’s founder, Jalaluddin Haqqani.
The Pakistani intelligence officials didn’t specify which strike on Aug. 24 killed Badruddin, but said he was leaving a hideout when the U.S. missiles hit.
The confirmation of his death came from their sources within the Taliban, which is allied with the Haqqani Network, and agents on the ground, they said. But neither the officials nor their sources have seen Badruddin’s body.
Pakistani intelligence officials previously said they were 90 percent sure Badruddin was killed in a drone strike in a different part of North Waziristan on Aug. 21. It’s unclear what caused the discrepancy.
Afghanistan’s intelligence agency said several days ago that its operatives had confirmed Badruddin’s death, but did not provide any details.
A senior Taliban commander also has confirmed the militant’s death. But a Taliban spokesman in Afghanistan, Zabiullah Mujahid, has rejected reports of Badruddin’s death, calling them “propaganda of the enemy.”
The U.S. does not often comment publicly on the covert CIA drone program in Pakistan and has not said whether Badruddin was killed.
The areas where the American drone strikes generally occur are extremely remote and dangerous, making it difficult for reporters or others to verify a particular person’s death.
Badruddin is considered a vital part of the Haqqani structure. He is believed to be the network’s day-to-day operations commander, according to a report by the Institute for the Study of War.
The State Department has designated Badruddin, along with his father and brothers — Nasiruddin and Sirajuddin — as terrorists.
The State Department said in May 2011 that Badruddin sits on the Miram Shah Shura, a group that controls all Haqqani network activities and coordinates attacks in southeastern Afghanistan.
Badruddin also is believed to have been responsible for the 2008 kidnapping of New York Times reporter David Rohde, the department said.
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