Pakistani Taliban says leading ideologue and comrade killed in clash

The Pakistani Taliban (Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP) announced today that its senior religious authority, Khalid Haqqani, and his comrade, Saifullah Peshawari, have been killed in a clash with “American slaves.”

The precise location of their demise isn’t immediately clear, as some jihadi social media accounts say they were killed in Afghanistan, while others indicated that they died in Pakistan. (This article may be updated when the location of their deaths is confirmed.) It appears they died on or around Jan. 30.

Khalid Haqqani was a prolific ideologue who previously served as the Pakistani Taliban’s deputy emir.

The organization relied on Haqqani to preach and defend its jihadist cause. He appeared in the group’s videos, with his face obscured, and also published tracts, including one denouncing democracy. The Pakistani Taliban’s propaganda arm, Umar Media, has promoted Haqqani’s texts a number occasions. In 2018, for instance, the group used the banner ad seen below to publicize his diatribe against democracy.

In its announcement today, the Pakistani Taliban praises Khalid Haqqani for his intellect, claiming that he was widely respected for his knowledge. Umar Media’s eulogy lauds Haqqani for presenting detailed research in his rejection of democracy, and also for his work responding to Islamic scholars who have rejected jihad. The eulogy mentions that he was in the process of composing another book, which will be published soon. His works have been published in multiple languages.

The Pakistani Taliban has suffered numerous leadership disputes and challenges to its cohesion through the years. Umar Media claims that Khalid Haqqani was a steady hand during these turbulent times, as he reportedly played a crucial role in strengthening the jihadists’ command, as well as its ideological basis, while also working to eliminate the problems that arose.

In Nov. 2013, Umar Media announced Khalid Haqqani’s appointment as deputy emir, saying that not only was he a senior shura official, but had also participated in some high-profile attacks. Umar Media claimed at the time that Haqqani had been close to Hakeemullah Mehsud, the TTP emir who was killed in a drone strike just days before Haqqani’s appontment, as well as Qari Hussain, who had directed suicide operations prior to his own death.

The announcement today indicates that Khalid Haqqani was no longer the TTP’s deputy, but had continued to serve in other capacities.

Like other jihadist organizations, the TTP has suffered a series of senior leadership losses. In Nov. 2018, TTP emir Mullah Fazlullah was killed in an American airstrike in Afghanistan’s Kunar province. Mufti Noor Wali Mehsud (Wali) was quickly named as Fazlullah’s successor. Wali, also known as Abu Mansoor Asim, is a veteran jihadist who fought alongside the Afghan Taliban against the Northern Alliance and against the U.S. and its allies after the Oct. 2001 invasion.