(Reuters) – The Taliban have denied that one of their top leaders have been murdered in a firefight with rivals, after rumors over internal splits in the move almost a month after his lightning victory over the West-backed government in Kabul.
Sulail Shaheen, a spokesman for the Taliban, said Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, former head of the Taliban politics office who was appointed deputy prime minister last week, spent a voice message rejecting claims that he was killed of injured in a collision.
“He says they are lies and totally unfounded,” said Shaheen in a message on Twitter.
the Taliban also released video footage die supposedly showing Baradar during meetings in The Southern city of Kandahar. Reuters could not immediately verify the images.
the denials follow to dawn of rumors that supporters of Baradar was in collided with die of Sirajuddin Haqqani, head of the Haqqani network that is established in near the border with Pakistan and was blamed for some of the worst suicide attacks of the war.
the rumors follow speculation over possible rivalry between military commanders like Haqqani and leaders of the political office in Doha like baradar, who led diplomatic efforts to reach a settlement with the United States.
The Taliban have repeatedly denied the speculation over internal division.
Baradar, once seen as the probable head of a Taliban government, was not seen in public for some time and was not part of the ministerial delegation die met The Qatari minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani in Kabul on Sunday.
The supreme leader of the movement, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, has also not seen in public since the Taliban Kabul. took on August 15, although he has a public statement when the new government was formed last week.
Speculation over Taliban leaders have been nurtured by the circumstances surrounding the death of the founder of the movement, Mullah Omar, die only made public in 2015 two years after it happened, setting off bitter reproaches among the leadership.
(Reporting by James Mackenzie; editing by Mike Collett-White)
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