Haqqani network growing in Pakistan despite drone strikes

February 14th, 2011 - 2:50 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Islamabad, Feb 14 (IANS) The Haqqani terror network is flourishing in Pakistan despite a surge in US drone strikes and there are “no signs of it getting weak”, an official said.The Haqqani network, known to have close links with Al Qaeda and the Taliban, has added to both its numbers and combat abilities during the past two years even though there has been an increase in drone strikes to curtail it.

“We have been watching the group carefully recently Â…and there are no signs of it getting weak. In fact, its strength is growing,” Express Tribune Monday quoted an official as saying.

The residents of Mirali and Miranshah towns in north Waziristan too seemed to have a similar opinion on the terror group.

“Nothing has changed. Everything looks just as it was before drones started attacking the network,” said Mirajuddin Wazir, who returned to Islamabad from his hometown in mountainous Waziristan.

The Haqqani network has been set up by Maulana Jalaluddin Haqqani and his sons. The group is based in Waziristan, one of Pakistan’s remote tribal areas, and has been identified by US officials as one of the most effective and dangerous insurgent groups.

The terror group operates in Pakistan and in neighbouring Afghanistan where it has been blamed for several bomb attacks in Kabul.

Syed Saleem Shahzad, a journalist who recently returned from Baghlan province in northern Afghanistan, said the Haqqani network “is now in control of areas in Afghanistan from Helmand province to Ghazni and Parwan”.

“It looks like the entire Pashtun population is on its (Haqqani network’s) side in Afghanistan, primarily in areas where there is poverty and unemployment,” he said.

Though the exact numbers of Haqqani network guerrillas are not known, it is estimated to vary between 15,000 and 25,000.

Officials said the group is on a recruitment drive and has attracted fighters from Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) and other small sectarian outfits.

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