June 30th, 2011
11:09 AM ET

Kabul hotel attack: What is the Haqqani network?

This week's deadly suicide attack on a hotel in Kabul, Afghanistan, that is popular with Westerners has been linked to a terrorist group called Haqqani.

Based in Pakistan's tribal region, Haqqani (which the U.S. government has dubbed the Haqqani network) is a militant group closely allied with the Taliban and linked to al Qaeda. For several years, it has reportedly targeted American and international forces across the Afghanistan border and the region. American officials say they consider the network one of the greatest threats in Afghanistan.

Members of Haqqani are bound together by tribal or clan relationships, according to the military blog the Long War Journal, which has a long explanation of the roots of the group and the Haqqani family, which is believed to be at the helm of the group.

Jane's Defense and Security Analysis says that in 2008, Siraj Haqqani was believed to be the leader of the network. At that time, he phoned The News, a Pakistani newspaper, and claimed he had masterminded a suicide bombing in the District Centre of Sabari, in southeast Afghanistan's Khost province, with an IED in March. Two U.S. soldiers in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force were killed in the attack, according to U.S. sources, Jane's says. Siraj Haqqani told the paper that a gunman had fired on guards manning the entrance to the base, allowing a suicide bomber to drive his car inside.

Also in 2008, Afghan officials blamed the Haqqani network for a January assault on Kabul's Serena Hotel. In that attack, three gunmen with explosives "bluffed, shot and blasted their way through the hotel's security measures, terrifying Afghanistan's small international community in the process," according to Jane's.

This week, terrorists entered the Hotel Inter-Continental in Kabul by avoiding the main entrance, instead attacking a smaller entrance on another side of the building. The attackers killed two Afghan police officers manning the entrance, according to Falak Merzahi, a spokesman for the Afghan Interior Ministry. The terrorists then stormed the hotel, and six of them detonated explosives. Three of the attackers were shot and killed on the roof of the hotel, Afghan officials told CNN. Although a NATO helicopter carrying International Security Assistance Force snipers flew to the scene and fired at the attackers, Merzahi said it was Afghan army soldiers who killed the three gunmen on the roof.

The attack at the Inter-Continental has led many to question whether Afghan security forces can take control in the country.

In February 2010, the son of a Haqqani leader was killed in a suspected American drone strike in Pakistan, Pakistani intelligence sources said. Muhammad Haqqani, son of Jalaluddin Haqqani, was one of the four people killed in a militant compound in the country's tribal region in North Waziristan. A Taliban source also confirmed the death.

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Al Qaeda • NATO • Security • Taliban • Terrorism
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