KABUL - Afghan security forces said Thursday they have captured two senior leaders of the feared Haqqani network, a hardline group behind sophisticated attacks on Afghan and NATO forces.
Anas Haqqani, the son of the network's founder Jalaluddin Haqqani, was arrested late Tuesday along with Hafiz Rashid, another commander, by the National Directorate of Security (NDS), the Afghan intelligence agency, officials said.
"We hope that these two arrests will have direct consequences on the network and their centre of command," NDS spokesman Haseeb Sediqi told AFP.
Anas played an important role in the network's "strategic decision-making" and frequently travelled to Gulf states to get funding, Sediqi said.
The Haqqanis have been blamed for spectacular attacks on Afghan government and NATO targets across Afghanistan as well as for kidnappings and murders.
The Haqqani network was founded by Jalaluddin Haqqani - an Afghan guerrilla leader bankrolled by the United States to fight Soviet troops in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Now in his 70s and frail, he is believed to live with his family in Pakistan.
In the 1980s Jalaluddin was close to the CIA and Pakistani intelligence. He allied himself to the Taliban after they took power in Kabul in 1996, serving as a cabinet minister under the militia's supreme leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar.
When American troops arrived after the 9/11 attacks, Haqqani sought refuge in Pakistan's tribal district of North Waziristan and became one of the first anti-US commanders based in the border areas.
He has training bases in eastern Afghanistan and is close to Al-Qaeda. His fighters are active across east and southeast Afghanistan and in the capital Kabul.
The network is militarily the most capable of the Afghan Taliban factions and operates independently but remains loyal to Mullah Omar.
Unidentified gunmen attacked and killed Nasiruddin Haqqani, the group's chief fundraiser and another son of its founder, on the edge of Islamabad last year.
A car bomb attack that killed more than 40 people in the Urgun district of Afghanistan's Paktika province in July was blamed on the Haqqani network.
Many key Haqqani members are thought to have fled back to Afghanistan in June, when the Pakistani army launched a major operation against militants in North Waziristan.