KABUL • Jalaluddin Haqqani, founder of the militant Haqqani network - one of the most powerful and feared groups in the Afghan insurgency - has died after a long illness, the Taleban said yesterday.
Haqqani, thought to be in his 70s or 80s, founded the network in the 1970s. He gave up operational leadership of the group some years ago to his son Sirajuddin, who is now deputy leader of the Afghan Taleban.
The Taleban issued a statement on Haqqani's death, but did not say where or when he died. It said he had been ill and bedridden for several years.
Afghan Defence Ministry spokesman Mohammad Radmanish said the death was not expected to mean any major change for the Haqqani network, blamed by security officials for some of the most devastating suicide attacks of the past decade.
"Operationally, his death will not have an impact on the group," he said, adding that Haqqani's role in recent years was ideological rather than practical.
Haqqani achieved prominence as a guerrilla leader in the United States-backed campaign against Soviet forces occupying Afghanistan during the 1980s, but he later allied himself with the Taleban, fighting US troops after the Taleban forces were ousted in 2001.
Haqqani is considered to have introduced suicide bombing to Afghanistan.
With hopes for peace talks raised by an unprecedented ceasefire in June, the news of his death comes at a sensitive time for both the Taleban and Kabul's Western-backed government.