PESHAWAR, Pakistan Uncertainty more than the fate of Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour deepened on Friday, as speculation grew over a possible successor, regardless of repeated denials by the spokesman of the Islamist movement that he had been badly wounded in a gunfight.
Several sources in the Taliban have stated that Mansour, whose claim to the leadership is rejected by rival factions, was seriously wounded and possibly killed in a shootout at the home of one more Taliban leader close to Quetta in Pakistan on Tuesday.
According to one senior Taliban commander, who mentioned that Mansour had died of his wounds on Thursday, Sheikh Haibatullah Akhundzada, a single of Mansour’s two deputies, is poised to take over the leadership.
“I personally think Sheikh Haibatullah Akhundzada and the Emirate will announce his death at an proper time later,” he mentioned, employing the term the Taliban use to describe their movement. “I am hundred % confident that Mullah Mansour is no far more,” he said.
Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah stated on Twitter on Thursday that Mansour had been wounded in a firefight close to Quetta, but there has been no direct evidence to confirm what happened.
The Taliban’s major spokesman has dismissed the reports as propaganda from Afghan intelligence solutions meant to develop divisions within the movement, saying Mansour is alive and well.
Nevertheless, scepticism has been fueled by the secrecy that surrounded the death of Taliban founder Mullah Mohammad Omar, which was only confirmed in July, much more than two years right after he had died in 2013.
There has been no statement so far from Mansour, who had been in efficient charge of the movement at least given that Omar’s death and who swiftly assumed the title of leader after it was confirmed.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid stated enhanced safety measures meant it was taking some time to contact Mansour directly, but that a voice recording would be released.
“Well, we are attempting to locate him by way of our folks to get his voice and release to the media to kill these rumors spread by the Afghan puppet government,” Mujahid said.
The lack of clarity has clouded prospects for any resumption in a peace process facilitated by Pakistan soon after talks broke down following the news of Omar’s death.
Afghan officials are cautious about what the indicators of rising fragmentation in the Taliban could imply.
“The rift is undoubtedly weakening the movement and if they are not a single united force, it could be simpler to convince them (to accept) peace or eradicate them,” said one particular official, who asked not to be identified.
Other Taliban members close to Mansour have confirmed he had been hurt in the gunfight, which followed a dispute more than how to deal with the factional split in the movement, and had apparently been taken to a private hospital for therapy.
“We even never know where he was taken but some of our people later told us he was admitted in a private hospital and that his situation was ?still crucial,” mentioned a single senior Taliban member close to Mansour.
The rivalry in between the factions led to fierce fighting in the southeastern province of Zabul final month with dozens of people killed. Mullah Mansoor Dadullah, a best commander in the breakaway group opposing Mansour, is also reported to have been killed last month.
“The local commanders, who are the backbone of the insurgency, look to disobey their leaders’ orders when it comes to subduing these who do not accept Mullah Akhtar Mansour as the supreme leader,” the Afghan official said.
“The main question they ask is: ‘You told us to go fight the invading or Afghan forces but now you want us to kill every other.'”
(Added reporting by Hamid Shalizi in KABUL Writing by James Mackenzie Editing by Paul Tait and Mike Collett-Whit)