Dire consequences if Taliban chooses Haqqani as new chief: Russia

Moscow, May 24 (IANS) There will be severe consequences if Sirajuddin Haqqani, considered one of the most dangerous warlords in the Middle East, becomes leader of the Taliban following the reported killing of Mullah Akhtar Mansour, a Russian Foreign Ministry official said here on Monday.

Haqqani, believed to be in his mid-40s, has been largely cited as a possible successor to Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour, who was reportedly killed in a targeted US drone strike in a remote Pakistani area on Saturday.

“There will be hell to pay” if the Afghan guerrilla commander replaces Mansour, Foreign Ministry official and the Russian president’s special representative on Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, told Interfax.

The Russian diplomat added that so far Haqqani was regarded as the most possible candidate to become the new Taliban chief, and said that although Moscow does not yet possess any final data on Mansour’s death, “the probability (of him being killed) is high”.

Taliban militants choosing Haqqani as their new chief will be the worst possible scenario, Kabulov told RIA Novosti, adding that he’s “the most radical figure in their leadership”.

The ministry official also said that Mansour’s alleged killing might lead to an escalation of military tensions in Afghanistan, and could “significantly complicate the negotiation process” in the region.

On Monday, US President Barack Obama confirmed the American military had killed the Taliban leader, proclaiming his death “an important milestone”. Having called on other militants to agree to peaceful negotiations, Obama said that “the Taliban should seize the opportunity to pursue the only real path for ending this long conflict (by) joining the Afghan government in a reconciliation process.”

While Haqqani has been one of two deputy Taliban commanders, he integrated his own militant faction, known as the Haqqani network, into the insurgency. His group is said to be among the most lethal in the region. According to the US State Department, his network was believed to have introduced suicide bombing to Afghanistan and was said to maintain close ties with Al Qaeda.

The man himself was labeled as a “specially designated global terrorist” by the FBI. A bounty of up to $5 million has been offered for anyone who can provide information that will lead to his arrest, with Haqqani wanted for his alleged involvement in the planning of the assassination attempt on Afghan President Hamid Karzai in 2008, among other crimes.

He’s also believed to have orchestrated the deadly suicide blast in the Afghan capital Kabul in April. Dozens were killed and hundreds injured in the attack close to the US embassy, responsibility for which was claimed by the Taliban.

–IANS

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