U.S. Strike Kills Leader of Afghan Insurgent Group

Mullah Sangeen Zadran Was on 'Specially Designated Global Terrorist' List

By Saeed Shah

Sept. 6, 2013

ISLAMABAD--A leading commander of the Haqqani network, an Afghan insurgent group affiliated with the Taliban, was killed in a U.S. drone strike late Thursday in the North Waziristan part of Pakistan's tribal area, according to local tribesmen and security officials.

Mullah Sangeen Zadran, the Taliban's shadow governor of eastern Afghanistan's Paktika province, was listed by the U.S. as a "specially designated global terrorist" in 2011. The listing said he brought hundreds of foreign fighters to Afghanistan, orchestrated kidnappings and served as "a senior lieutenant" to the Haqqani network's leader, Sirajuddin Haqqani.

Mullah Sangeen was also believed to have been involved in the capture of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the only American soldier in insurgent captivity. In recent years, the U.S. and the Taliban have been discussing a possible prisoner exchange that would free Sgt. Bergdahl and move Taliban leaders incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to Qatar. These tentative talks didn't produce results.

Local mosques in the Ghulam Khan district of North Waziristan have announced that Mullah Sangeen's funeral will take place Friday afternoon, local residents said.

The Haqqani network was started by Jalaluddin Haqqani during the Soviet occupation and is now run by Sirajuddin, his son. It operates in eastern Afghanistan and is also responsible for multiple attacks in the capital, Kabul. While the Haqqani network is operationally separate from the Afghan Taliban, it works ultimately under the authority of the Taliban's leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar. The network uses Pakistan's North Waziristan area as a sanctuary. U.S. and Afghan officials accuse Pakistan of supporting, or at least tolerating, its presence there, a charge that Islamabad denies.

"Sangeen was running the show, practically," said Saifullah Mahsud, director of the FATA Research Center in Islamabad. "Siraj is the big name. But on the ground, whatever is conducted, is directed by Sangeen."

"He's their most lethal commander. To get him, they've scored really big," Mr. Mahsud said.

Security officials and locals said that a total of six people were killed in the missile strike from a U.S. drone, and at least three Haqqani fighters were injured.

Among the dead was Zubair al Muzi, an al Qaeda explosives expert, security officials said. Mr. Muzi was a 32-year-old Egyptian believed to be training the Afghan insurgents, a security official said. Two other al Qaeda operatives from Jordan were also killed, security officials said, naming them as Abu Bilal al Khurasani and Abu Dujana al Khurasani.

The Haqqani network works closely with al Qaeda, analysts say, a fact seemingly confirmed by the presence of Mr. Muzi and the other Arab militants in the compound that was hit around midnight on Thursday.