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Who Killed Nasiruddin Haqqani?

Pakistani children point to bullet holes at the spot where Nasiruddin Haqqani, a senior leader of the feared militant Haqqani network, was assassinated outside an Afghan bakery in the Bhara Kahu district on the outskirts of Islamabad on November 10.
Pakistani authorities appear to have few clues in the mysterious murder of a senior Afghan Taliban leader in the capital.

Police in Islamabad, where Nasiruddin Haqqani was gunned down outside a ramshackle bakery on November 10, have said little about his killing.

A police officer in the Bhara Kahu neighborhood confirmed to BBC that Nasiruddin lived there, and the police are still investigating his slaying.

But the killing of one of Pakistan's long-time Afghan jihadist allies has prompted much speculation about who might have been behind the brazen assassination of one of the top leaders of the Haqqani Network, which is considered the most lethal faction of the Afghan Taliban.

Tribal Feud?

One source close to the Afghan Taliban suggested to RFE/RL that Nasiruddin might have been the victim of a tribal feud within the large Zadran tribe, whose homeland in the southeastern Afghan provinces of Khost, Paktia, and Paktika is the key theater for Haqqani Network operations.

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The source, requesting anonymity out of fear of reprisals, said the feud began after the murder of an Afghan man in Islamabad two years ago. The source described the victim as the son of a wealthy Afghan businessman, Haji Khalil Zadran, who had reportedly vowed to avenge his son's killing. (The "Daily Beast" cited reports of a feud but identified the victim as Zadran's brother.)

"The New York Times" recently reported that Zadran tribe members had previously broken ties with the Haqqanis because of their association with Pakistan. In addition, Haqqani fighters have targeted tribal leaders and terrorized villagers. The tribe observes an ancient tradition of reprisal killings in family or clan disputes that can last for generations.

Pakistani Taliban

The source close to the Afghan Taliban also singled out the Pakistani Taliban as another group that might have been behind Nasiruddin's murder. He said that slain Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud had turned against the Haqqanis because of their long-standing alliance with Pakistan's powerful military establishment. The source said Taliban insiders had told him that days before his death, Hakimullah Mehsud had vowed to take on the Haqqanis and Asamatullah Muawiya, leader of a Pakistani Taliban faction now sheltering with the Haqqanis in their North Waziristan stronghold. The source said that Mehsud had publicly chided the Haqqanis for their alleged ties with Pakistani intelligence services.

A senior Pakistani politician told RFE/RL that the Haqqani sanctuary in North Waziristan was threatened by a deepening rift with Hafiz Gul Bahadar, a powerful Pakistani Taliban leader. The politician said that Bahadar and his supporters were unhappy with Nasiruddin's brother Sirajuddin Haqqani because of his support for radical fighters from the eastern Pakistani province of Punjab. Such fighters, dubbed Punjabi Taliban in Pakistan, are widely seen as insensitive to local sentiments in North Waziristan, whose Pashtun population strongly resents the decade-long insecurity in the region.

The BBC reported that the Taliban factions and allied extremists are uneasy over the prospect of a power struggle after NATO's withdrawal from neighboring Afghanistan next year. A BBC report said that the Haqqanis are opposed by local militants from Waziristan over the former's presumed ties to Pakistani intelligence services. But the Haqqanis now face additional pressure from the Punjabi Taliban, who are said to have turned against the Haqqanis despite being initially hosted by them.

Intelligence Services?

For its part, the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan, the Pakistani Taliban's umbrella alliance, has accused Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of orchestrating Nasiruddin's murder.

Pakistan's daily "The News" reported that Nasiruddin's assassination might herald the end of a decades-old alliance between the Haqqanis and the Pakistani intelligence services. The newspaper said Islamabad was unhappy with ties between the Haqqanis and the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan.

In late 2010, Washington designated Nasiruddin a "global terrorist." U.S. Navy SEALs killed Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Ladin near Islamabad in the garrison town of Abbottabad in May 2011. Scores of Pakistani, Afghan, Arab, and Central Asian militant leaders have died in suspected U.S. drone strikes in North Waziristan and the adjacent tribal regions during the past few years.

-- Abubakar Siddique