KABUL/ ISLAMABAD: Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour was injured in a firefight following a verbal dispute at a meeting of militant commanders in Pakistan, officials said, exposing the deep divisions within the fractious militant movement.
"Mansour was seriously injured. He was rushed to hospital and we are not sure if he survived his wounds," Sultan Faizi, the spokesperson for the Afghan first vice president, told AFP.
An Afghan intelligence source confirmed his account, and insurgent sources also told AFP Mansour had been injured.
Four people were killed in the firefight Wednesday, a Taliban source close to Mansour's group told AFP, and a number of people injured.
"Akhtar Mansour is among the injured but the extent of his injuries is not clear," he said.
His account was confirmed by another Afghan Taliban source.
The meeting was at the home of Abdullah Sarhadi, a commander in Mansour's group and a former Guantanamo Bay prisoner who had been arrested after 2001 by the US, then released, the Taliban sources said.
Deputy leader of breakaway Taliban group killed in Afghanistan
"There were differences on some points which later turned into harsh words, then Sarhadi opened fire and the others returned fire," the Taliban source said.
He was arrested again later on by Pakistan, then released sometime in 2012, they said.
However, the Afghan Taliban rejected the reports.
Spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid denied that any such firefight took place.
“I have talked to the refugees in Kuchlak, Balochistan who denied any incident of firing,” Mujahid told The Express Tribune.
Mujahid said a new "newspaper published by the Presidential Palace in Kabul had earlier reported the news, and the baseless information was provided by the Afghan intelligence NDS for propaganda.”
A former Taliban minister, who belongs to the anti-Mansour camp, also denied the reports.
Mansour was announced as the new Taliban chief on July 31, after the militant movement belatedly confirmed the death of Mullah Omar, who led the movement for some two decades.
But splits immediately emerged in the Taliban following his appointment, with some top leaders refusing to pledge allegiance to him, saying the process to select him was rushed and even biased.
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