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Haqqani shows his face for 1st time at a police parade

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KABUL: One of the Taliban’s most secretive leaders has been photographed openly for the first time at a passing-out parade for new Afghan police recruits in the capital.

Taliban’s Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani’s only picture on the US “most wanted” lists is a grainy semi-covered profile,

“For your satisfaction and for building your trust… I am appearing in the media in a public meeting with you,” said Sirajuddin Haqqani in a speech at the police parade.

At the parade, Haqqani was dressed like many of the senior Taliban officials very heavily bearded and wearing a black turban and white shawl.

He said he was showing his face so “you could know how much value we have with our leadership”.

Several diplomats were in the crowd – including Pakistan’s ambassador – even though no country has officially recognized the new Taliban regime.

Haqqani, who also heads the feared Haqqani Network, has previously only been photographed clearly from behind – even since they seized power last.

Haqqani’s appearance suggests the Taliban have grown even more confident of their hold on the country since seizing power on August 15, two weeks before the last US-led foreign forces left. 

Before the Taliban’s return, Haqqani was the most senior of three deputies to leader Hibatullah Akhundzada who hasn’t been seen in public for years.

Haqqani heads a powerful subset of the Taliban blamed for some of the worst violence of the past 20 years.

The Haqqani Network, founded in the 1970s by Jalaluddin Haqqani, was heavily supported by the CIA during the Mujahideen war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

Sirajuddin Haqqani, who is believed to be in his 40s, is his son and succeeded him following his death in 2018.

The latter was blamed for the deadly 2008 attack on Kabul’s Serena Hotel that killed six people, as well as at least one assassination attempt against former Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

The United States has offered a reward of up to $10 million for information leading to his arrest, saying he was responsible for a string of terror attacks.

The FBI Rewards for Justice programme says he maintains “close ties” to Al Qaeda, and “is a specially designated global terrorist”.

He is reported to have been the target of several US drone strikes – in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and in the rugged terrain between them that is the heartland of the Haqqani Network.

He was also credited as the author of a New York Times opinion piece in 2020 titled “What We, the Taliban, Want”, sparking a controversy that the newspaper had given “terrorists” a public platform.

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