WASHINGTON - The United States offered a total $30 million in return for information on key leaders of the feared Haqqani militant network, blamed for numerous bloody attacks in Afghanistan. “The Department has authorised rewards of up to $5 million each for information leading to the location of Aziz Haqqani, Khalil al-Rahman Haqqani, Yahya Haqqani and Abdul Rauf Zakir,” the State Department said in a statement Wednesday.
It also increased its previous reward offer of up to $5 million for information on the group’s leader, Sirajuddin Haqqani, to up to $10 million.
The State Department added: “The group is allied with Al-Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban and cooperates with other terrorist organisations in the region.” It said that the Pakistan-based Haqqani network was “the most lethal insurgent group” targeting the US-led NATO coalition and Afghan personnel in neighbouring Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, the United States imposed sanctions on a Taliban financing company and two key Taliban men, labelling them global terrorists as it continued to crack down on the militant group. The Treasury Department said the sanctions targeted the financial and leadership networks of the Taliban, the fierce insurgency fighting the government of Afghanistan. The Treasury placed sanctions on a Pakistan-based hawala, or money transfer business, Haji Basir and Zarjmil Company (Basir Zarjmil Hawala), and its owner, Haji Abdul Basir, for providing financial services or other support to the Taliban.
Basir’s business, based in Balochistan, distributes money to Taliban members in Afghanistan and also has used Pakistani banks as a conduit for Taliban financing, the Treasury said. Basir was considered to be the principal money exchanger for Taliban senior leadership in Pakistan as of 2012.
The Treasury also placed sanctions on Qari Rahmat, a Taliban commander since at least February 2010 who the Treasury said also collects taxes and bribes on behalf of the Taliban and supplies them with arms. “The Taliban continues to conduct terrorist attacks against the US forces and innocent civilians, posing a direct threat to the US national security interests,” said David Cohen, the Treasury’s under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, in a statement. “We’ll continue to work to deprive terrorists of the funds necessary to sustain and perpetrate terrorist operations.”
NINE BAGRAM DETAINEES
RETURN TO PAKISTAN
Nine Pakistani detainees have returned home from Afghanistan’s Bagram prison, a group representing them said Thursday, as US-led international forces prepare to withdraw from the country by the end of the year.
Afghan authorities took over the detention facility for militants in 2013, renaming it Parwan, but the US remains in charge of foreigners and there are believed to be around 15 Pakistanis still in custody. “The families of the detainees have been informed by the International Red Cross (ICRC) that their loved ones have been handed over to the Pakistani authorities,” a statement by the Justice Project Pakistan (JPP), which has been pursuing Islamabad to secure their release, said.
It described one of the nine men as a 39-year-old businessman from Abbottabad, who disappeared on a visit to Afghanistan in 2008.
“After hearing the news of his detention in Bagram, his aged mother passed away. Father of three Shoaib Khan was the main bread winner of the family. After he was detained in Bagram Shoaib’s aged father has had to go back to work to make ends meet,” it added.
Sarah Belal, lead counsel for JPP said: “We are pleased to learn about the recent releases from Bagram and are delighted for their families - their years-long nightmare is finally coming to an end.” She added that the detainees were currently under Pakistani government custody and called for their speedy release. Rights groups have accused US authorities of carrying out prisoner abuse at the facility, and a US army report found that two inmates were beaten to death in 2002.
In some cases, US officials have found little evidence of detainees’ involvement in militancy, but they have remained in custody due to delays in processing their repatriation.
A former Pakistan detainee interviewed by AFP in April said he had suffered beatings and sleep deprivation during his nine-year-detention and that holy Quran abuse was rampant.
A US defence spokesman at the time said that certain cases of abuse had been substantiated, but added: “our enemies also have employed a deliberate campaign of exaggerations and fabrications”.
The JPP has taken the Pakistani government to court to push for the remaining detainees’ liberation ahead of the withdrawal of foreign troops by the end of 2014, fearing they could be caught in legal limbo.
All NATO combat soldiers will depart by the end of the year, though a follow-up support mission of about 10,000 troops is planned if the next president signs security deals with the US and NATO.