Gunmen on the outskirts of Islamabad shot dead a senior leader of one of the most feared al-Qaeda-linked militant groups fighting US troops in Afghanistan, a Pakistani Taliban commander and an intelligence official said yesterday.
Nasiruddin Haqqani, a key financier of the Haqqani network, was gunned down by armed men riding a motorcycle on Sunday night in Bhara Kahu, a residential area only a few kilometers from the US Embassy.
He had stopped to buy bread at the local bakery, said witness Tanveer Ahmed. The attack left bloodstains on the pavement and bullet holes in the bakery's tiled wall.
The Haqqani network is a key ally of the Afghan Taliban and has pledged allegiance to its leader, Mullah Omar, though it operates fairly independently.
Nasiruddin's presence in the Pakistani capital could raise questions in Washington. US officials have accused Pakistan's intelligence agency of supporting the Haqqani network as a key proxy in the Afghan war - an allegation denied by Islamabad.
No one has yet claimed responsibility for the killing, but it will probably spark suspicion in Pakistan that the Americans were behind it.
Nasiruddin's death comes less than two weeks after the United States outraged Pakistani officials by killing Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud in a drone strike a day before the government planned to invite him to peace talks.
Nasiruddin was considered an important financier and emissary for the Haqqani network, currently led by his brother, Sirajuddin Haqqani. Their father, Jalaluddin Haqqani, founded the group and is well-known for fighting the Soviets after they invaded Afghanistan in 1979.
The US Treasury slapped sanctions on Nasiruddin in 2010 when it added him to its list of specially designated global terrorists.
The Treasury said Nasiruddin, who is known to speak Arabic, has travelled to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to raise money for the Haqqani network, al-Qaeda and the Taliban.