Afghan intelligence arrests 2 leaders of Al Qaeda-linked Haqqani network

Two senior leaders of the Al Qaeda-linked Haqqani network have been arrested in eastern Khost province, the Afghan intelligence service said Thursday, claiming a major blow to the Pakistan-based militant group.

Anis Haqqani, a brother of the network's leader, and Hafiz Rashid, who allegedly helped equip suicide bombers and select targets for attacks, were detained Tuesday in a special operation, the National Directorate of Security said in a statement.

"It is one of the biggest and most important arrests by NDS, and has strategic impact on this network and can cause disorder in its operations and weaken its fighting capabilities," the statement said, without providing details. The Associated Press could not immediately reach a Taliban spokesman for comment.

The statement said Anis Haqqani was an expert in computers and use of propaganda through social networks, and played a key role in the group's strategic decisions as a deputy to his brother, network leader Sirajuddin Haqqani.

"He (Anis) was responsible for collecting and preparing funds from Arabic countries to carry out operations of this network," the NDS statement said. Rashid was responsible for choosing targets and providing equipment to suicide bombers in Afghanistan, it said.

The Haqqanis are allied with Al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban and are accused of staging many cross-border attacks from their base in North Waziristan, Pakistan, including a 19-hour siege at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul in 2011.