U.S. officials say Washington has intensified its drive against
the network in an attempt to deal a lasting blow to the militants
before foreign combat forces depart at the end of the year.
The National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan's main
intelligence agency, said in a statement that about 300 Haqqani
insurgents and foreign fighters came under intensive fire on Monday
when they tried to storm Afghan bases in Ziruk district of Paktika
Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said Afghan forces were
already in position after receiving information about imminent
attacks by the insurgents.
"Hundreds of insurgents tried to take over the district centre but
we were there and hit them with a huge blow," Sediqqi told Reuters,
adding that five Afghan policemen were wounded.
"Dead bodies, wounded fighters, their weapons and pick-up trucks
were left on the battlefield," Sediqqi added.
The NATO-led international force declined to comment.
The Haqqani network, which professes obedience to Taliban leader
Mullah Mohammad Omar, is believed to have been involved in some of
the most deadly attacks of the Afghan war.
The group has been blamed for attacks on hotels popular with
foreigners in Kabul, the bombing of the Indian embassy in the
capital, a 2011 attack on the U.S. embassy and several big attempted
The United States blacklisted the group as a terrorist organization
in 2012. It also accuses Pakistan's powerful spy agency of
supporting the network and using it as a proxy in Afghanistan to
gain leverage against growing influence of its arch-rival India.
Pakistan denies that.
Monday's battle occurred in the southeast province of Paktika which
shares a long and porous border with lawless areas in Pakistan where
foreign fighters and the Haqqani network are believed to be based.
[to top of second column]
The Obama administration has created a special unit based in Kabul
to coordinate efforts against the militant group, officials familiar
with the matter have told Reuters. It was set up late last year, as
part of a new strategy that involves multiple government agencies.
The unit, headed by a colonel and known in military parlance as a
"fusion cell", brings together special forces, conventional forces,
intelligence personnel, and some civilians to improve targeting of
Haqqani members and to heighten the focus on the group, the
The U.S.-led military operation in Afghanistan is due to end on
December 31, although the United States wants to keep a small force
in the country for counter-terrorism support and training.
Outgoing President Hamid Karzai has declined to sign a security
agreement allowing U.S. forces to stay, but the two front runners to
replace him as president in an election say they will enact the
Afghan insurgents have pledged to disrupt the election with a
campaign of violence, but the first round of the vote passed off
relatively peacefully. As the country readies for a second round
run-off in June, there is concern the conditions will be more
favorable for militant attacks.
(Additional reporting by Jeremy Laurence;
editing by Robert Birsel)
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.