Sirajuddin Haqqani, the Taliban deputy leader has tested positive for coronavirus along with three commanders, according to anti-terror operatives in Delhi and Kabul.
Sirajuddin Haqqani, who also heads the Taliban’s sword arm Haqqani Network, is reported to have been taken to a Pakistani military hospital for treatment, possibly Rawalpindi.
The other Taliban leaders who are reported to have been infected with the virus include Mullah Amir Khan Muttaqi and Fazal Mazloom who are associated with the Taliban’s negotiating team in talks with US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad. The two Taliban leaders along with Mullah Nooruddin Turabi, who was earlier based in Doha, are reported to be treated at hospitals in Quetta and Karachi.
Taliban leaders denied that some among its top leadership were down with Covid-19. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah said that the leaders of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, as the political wing of the Taliban is termed, were healthy and not unwell.
“Some outlets are circulating fake reports about a number of leaders of IEA including Deputy Khalifa Sahib Sirajuddin Haqqani contracting coronavirus…. The said reports are the work of malicious circles trying to stoke fear,” he tweeted.
Counter-terror operatives, however, insisted that they had checked the information from multiple sources.
The coronavirus infection, one official said, could be the reason why Fazal Mazloom was not spotted at the Taliban meetings at Doha earlier this month.
He, however, stressed that there was no confirmation available how the Taliban leaders had contracted the infection. Or if it had anything to do with their visits to Pakistan over the last two months.
A large proportion of Taliban leaders such as Sirajuddin Haqqani are known to be close to Pakistan deep state that has guided and funded them apart from allowing use of its facilities. Sirajuddin Haqqani also heads the terror group Haqqani Network that he inherited from his father Jalaluddin Haqqani who set it up during the Afghan-Soviet war.