Afghanistan's spy agency said Sunday that the operational commander of the Al-Qaeda-linked Haqqani network responsible for spectacular attacks on Kabul had been killed in a US drone strike in Pakistan.
"We confirm that Badruddin Haqqani, who was the mastermind of almost all sophisticated attacks in Kabul, was killed in a drone strike," National Directorate of Security spokesman Lutfullah Mashal told AFP.
"Our information is based on interception of the conversation of the guys (Haqqani members) on the ground who confirmed he was dead," Mashal said.
The death of Badruddin, the son of Haqqani network founder Jalaluddin Haqqani, has been rumoured for days but has been denied by the Taliban, to which the network is allied.
"This is propaganda of the enemy. Badruddin is alive and he will soon talk to the media," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP.
"He is inside Afghanistan and busy with operations."
US drones killed at least 18 people last week when they struck several targets in Pakistan's restive North Waziristan tribal region near the Afghan border, Pakistani security officials said.
But confirmation of whether Badruddin Haqqani died in the strikes has been difficult to obtain from the remote and mountainous area.
If Badruddin's death is confirmed it will be a serious blow to the organisation, seen by the United States as a major threat in the Afghan war, although his brother Sirajuddin Haqqani remains a key leader of the group.
The Haqqani network is a faction of the Afghan Taliban whose leaders are based in neighbouring Pakistan, where Islamabad has come under immense US pressure to wage an offensive against the group.
The network has been blamed for a series of well-coordinated commando-style raids on the Afghan capital targeting foreign embassies, NATO bases and government buildings.
US-led NATO forces have some 130,000 troops in Afghanistan fighting against a Taliban insurgency seeking to topple the government of President Hamid Karzai.