ISLAMABAD: The Afghan Taliban on Saturday released an audio statement from Mullah Akhtar Mansoor as pressure mounted on the group to offer proof that their chief was still alive after reportedly being critically wounded in a gunfight earlier this week.
The recording was uploaded on the group’s official website following days of uncertainty over the fate of Mansoor, who, according to multiple reports, had been badly wounded in a shootout at the home of another Taliban commander in Kuchlak, Balochistan late Tuesday.
In the message, Mansoor denied that there had been any clash and termed reports of Taliban infighting an attempt to create fissures within the group.
Mystery shrouds fate of Mullah Mansoor
“There is no truth to the rumours that I was either injured or killed in infighting at Pakistan’s Kuchlak area,” the Taliban chief said. “This is the enemy’s propaganda, and completely false. I want to assure you that there was no incident. I have not seen Kuchlak for years.”
Speculation about Mansoor’s fate reached a fever pitch after unconfirmed media reports on Friday claimed that he had died in the gunfight, which the Taliban earlier repeatedly denied ever took place as well.
But the vehement denials by the radical group fell on sceptical ears, especially after they kept the death of longtime chief Mullah Omar secret for two years. He died in 2013 but this was not confirmed until two years later.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the audio recording had “exposed the ulterior motives of the enemy.”
Afghan Taliban chief injured in gunfight
Mansoor, in the recording, also condemned a rocket firing incident which took place on Friday and claimed the lives of 12 civilians, most of them children. The rockets, which were fired during a clash, landed at a mosque in Afghanistan’s Maidan Wardak province.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 6th, 2015.
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