Haqqani is also the head of the Taliban’s military strategy and was placed in charge of security in Kabul after the militants seized the city last week.
His exact age is unclear, but he is believed to have been born in either Afghanistan or Pakistan between 1973 and 1980, according to the FBI, which placed him on its Most Wanted list and is offering a $5 million reward.
He is the senior leader of the Haqqani network, which the U.S. designated terror group in 2012 and has been linked to bombings, abductions and other attacks.
Haqqani also has close ties to al Qaeda.
His father, Jalaluddin Haqqani, founded their namesake jihadist group and handed over leadership before his death in 2018 at 71. The father had been paralyzed for a decade by then. But in the 1980s, the elder Haqqani was among the U.S.-backed mujahedeen warlords battling a Soviet Union invasion and was a close friend and mentor of the slain al Qaeda terrorist Usama bin Laden, according to the U.S. Director of National Intelligence’s Counterterrorism Guide.
“The Haqqanis are considered the most lethal and sophisticated insurgent group targeting U.S., Coalition, and Afghan forces in Afghanistan,” according to the DNI report. “They typically conduct coordinated small-arms assaults coupled with rocket attacks, IEDs, suicide attacks, and attacks using bomb-laden vehicles.”
U.S. officials have blamed the Haqqani network for numerous high-profile attacks in Afghanistan, including the 2011 attack on the Kabul International Hotel and a pair of suicide bombings at the Indian Embassy. The group had also attacked the U.S. embassy in Kabul in 2011 and is blamed for “the largest truck bomb ever built,” a 61,500-pound device intercepted by Afghan security forces in 2013.
In February 2020, the younger Haqqani wrote an op-ed that appeared in The New York Times, claiming he was “convinced that the killing and the maiming must stop.” The paper identified him as “the deputy leader of the Taliban” but left out his position as the head of a terrorist group.
Even after the paper received criticism for the op-ed, including from within its own newsroom, the author blurb attached to the op-ed still made no mention of his terror ties when accessed Thursday.
“We are about to sign an agreement with the United States and we are fully committed to carrying out its every single provision, in letter and spirit,” he wrote at the time.
Those provisions included an agreement that the Taliban would not allow terror groups like al Qaeda to operate out of Afghanistan as they did before the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks that prompted the U.S.-led invasion.
“The Haqqanis expose the lie that there is a line between Taliban and other jihadist groups, especially al Qaeda,” retired Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, a Trump-era national security adviser, told The Wall Street Journal Thursday.
Since 2008, Sirajuddin Haqqani has been wanted for questioning in connection with a Kabul hotel bombing that killed six people, including one American. He is also suspected of coordinating and taking part in attacks against U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan and playing a role in the failed assassination attempt of former Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
He has a long lists of aliases, according to the FBI: Siraj, Khalifa, Mohammad Siraj, Sarajadin, Cirodjiddin, Seraj, Arkani, Khalifa (Boss) Shahib, Halifa, Ahmed Zia, Sirajuddin Jallaloudine Haqqani, Siraj Haqqani, Serajuddin Haqani, Siraj Haqani and Saraj Haqani.
And he’s not the only member of the Haqqani network with influence within the Taliban.
Sirajuddin Haqqani’s younger brother, Anas Haqqani, was freed as part of a prisoner exchange in 2019 that also secured the release of American Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weeks, who had been held hostage by Taliban fighters for over three years. Then he led a Taliban delegation to meet with ex-officials of the toppled Afghan government earlier this month.
After the Taliban seized Kabul last week, Haqqani’s uncle, Khalil Haqqani, delivered public remarks at the city’s largest mosque – receiving cheers in response, according to The New York Times.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.