4 Oct 2011

Afghan militant group denies killing peace envoy

4:48 am on 4 October 2011

A key leader of the Haqqani network in Afghanistan says it is not responsible for killing the man overseeing Taliban peace talks.

Afghan officials have blamed the Taliban-affiliated network for the suicide attack on Burhanuddin Rabbani.

Mr Rabbani was killed at his home in Kabul on 20 September when meeting a man who said he was carrying an important peace message from the Taliban. The man detonated a bomb hidden in his turban.

Siraj Haqqani has told the BBC his network is not linked to Pakistan's spy agency, as claimed by the United States.

"Dear BBC friends, I convey peace to you" - so begins a taped interview given by the feared militant leader to the BBC's Pashtou service.

Siraj Haqqani's network, which he says has many thousands of armed followers, is accused of being responsible for many of high-profile attacks in Kabul in recent weeks.

Afghan officials believe Pakistan's intelligence service is directing the Haqqanis, but Siraj Haqqani denies that.

"We first had contacts with the Pakisani intelligence services when we were fighting the Soviets," he says.

"Since then, we've had a lot of contacts with many countries' intelligence services - Islamic and non-Islamic, including Pakistan. We've never heard anything to our benefit."

The Taliban say they do not wish to comment on Mr Rabbani's killing.