Uncertainty Prevails Amid Reports of Taliban Supremo Killed
KABUL: Uncertainilty prevails as taliban groups deny reports that surfaced the Taliban’s supreme leader to be wounded or killed in a dispute, illuminated the group’s fraying unity.
Afghan government officials claimed on Wednesday that the Taliban leader, Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, had been shot in a tense meeting of his commanders in the suburbs of the Pakistani city of Quetta. Those claims could not be independently verified, and the government has gotten such reports wrong before. But the news came from as high a source as the Afghan chief executive, Abdullah Abdullah, whose official Twitter account on Thursday announced that Mullah Mansour had been “injured in a firefight in the vicinity of Quetta, Pakistan, two days ago.”
In an effort to still the speculation, the Taliban attacked the report on multiple fronts. The group’s spokesman rejected the claim as a baseless fabrication of “enemy intelligence apparatus.”
Other insurgent sources in Quetta said Mullah Mansour was not in the area, and that they had heard nothing of such an episode.
And in the most extraordinary step, the Taliban released an audiotape from the man in whose house Mullah Mansour was supposedly shot, denying it had happened. But then questions were quickly raised about whether the voice was really his, and many asked why the Taliban had not just released a recording of Mullah Mansour himself denying the claim.
Taliban clerics and fighters have been openly questioning Mullah Mansour’s mandate to deploy fighters to kill fellow Taliban, with whom they once studied and fought, a senior Afghan security official briefed on intelligence matters said.
The claim that Mullah Mansour had been shot was further promoted by Mullah Dadullah’s breakaway faction, which has carried out the most public opposition to Mullah Mansour’s succession. The faction accuses Mullah Mansour of conspiring with certain intelligence agencies to cover up the death of the insurgents’ supreme leader and founder, Mullah Muhammad Omar, for more than two years until it was publicly revealed in July.
Mullah Abdul Manan Niazi, a spokesman for the faction, claimed on Thursday that Mullah Mansour had died of his injuries after being shot by a commander named Muhibullah as “an act of retaliation for the killing” of Mullah Dadullah.
Still, just days before, that same spokesman had maintained that Mullah Dadullah was not even dead, even though Taliban and Afghan government officials both said he had been killed. And a spokesman for the core Taliban group, Qari Muhammad Yousuf Ahmadi, rejected the reports of Mullah Mansour’s shooting as baseless.
“Our credible sources state that Amir ul Mumineen has no presence in the stated area and neither has a security incident occurred there,” Mr. Ahmadi said in a statement, referring to Mullah Mansour by his title.
The drama around Mullah Mansour’s fate is unfolding as efforts are underway to restart the peace-talks effort in Pakistan, where the majority of the insurgent leaders are believed to be based.
After months of little contact, President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan met with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan on the sidelines of the United Nations climate conference in Paris. The Pakistani government hopes Mr. Ghani will attend a regional conference on Afghanistan in Islamabad next week as a first step toward restarting peace talks with the Taliban, which after an initial burst of success this summer fell apart upon news of Mullah Omar’s death and the Taliban’s ensuing leadership struggle.
Original Article published in Newyork Times
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