January 22, 2016 / 3:18 PM / 4 years ago

Afghanistan arrests Haqqani network members blamed for TV station attack

Brother of one of the victims of suicide car bomb attack mourns at the burial ceremony, at a cemetery Kabul, Afghanistan January 21, 2016. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood

KABUL (Reuters) - Afghan forces have arrested eight members of the feared Haqqani militant network who they say carried out a suicide attack this week on journalists working for the country’s most-watched television channel.The Haqqani network, which mainly operates out of Pakistan’s border areas, is blamed for some of the deadliest and most sophisticated attacks on U.S. and Afghan troops in Afghanistan.The National Directorate for Security (NDS), Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, said in a statement those arrested were behind the attack that killed seven journalists in Kabul. The journalists died when returning home after a day’s work when their company minibus was rammed by a car driven by a suicide bomber in evening rush hour traffic.NDS said the arrests were made in a district in the southeast Kabul and no further details were given.The Taliban claimed responsibility for the bombing and said they targeted Tolo TV, Afghanistan’s largest private television network, because it was producing propaganda for the U.S. military and its allies.The Taliban openly threatened to target the station after it reported allegations of summary executions, rape and kidnappings by Taliban fighters during the battle for the northern city of Kunduz last year.

Tolo, which created Afghanistan’s first 24-hour news channel, has won a reputation for fast and credible reporting.During their five years in power, the Taliban banned television to stop people viewing what they derided as vulgar, immoral and anti-Islamic materialThe Haqqani network technically falls under the command of the Taliban, although U.S. officials believe they can act independently.

The group’s leader Sirajuddin Haqqani was appointed as the deputy to the Taliban’s new leader last year. The Haqqanis have been blamed for some of the most spectacular attacks against American targets in Afghanistan, a raid on Kabul’s top hotel, an assassination attempt on then-President Hamid Karzai and a suicide bombing at the Indian Embassy.

Reporting by Hamid Shalizi; Writing by Andrew MacAskill; Editing by Tom Heneghan

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