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Senior Taliban commander dies of cancer in Pakistan

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This undated photo purportedly shows Mullah Muhammad Hassan Rahmani, a senior member of the Taliban in Afghanistan who reportedly died late on February 9, 2016, in a hospital in southwestern Pakistan.

A senior member of Taliban’s leadership died in a hospital in Pakistan’s southwest, in what could embarrass Islamabad and expose its alleged links to the militants in neighboring Afghanistan.

Sources said on Tuesday that Mullah Muhammad Hassan Rahmani, a member of Taliban’s Shoura Council, died overnight of cancer in a hospital in the city of Quetta.

Taliban's website confirmed the death of Rahmani, saying he was an influential commander during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s and lost a leg in the conflict.

Rahmani, who was purportedly in his fifties when he died, was also for a while the governor of Kandahar Province during Taliban's 1996-2001 rule over Afghanistan.

“He died in Quetta late Monday night and today his body was moved to Afghanistan. The burial will probably take place in Kandahar,” a senior Taliban leader said, adding, “He was a prominent figure in the Taliban leadership and there were some rumors he might soon announce his own splinter group.”

Infighting has surged between various factions of the Taliban since the group announced in 2015 that its long-time leader and founder of the group Mullah Mohammad Omar had died two years ago. Mullah Akhtar Mansour, who officially succeeded Mullah Omar, is currently leading Taliban’s dominant faction, while Muhammad Rasul is in charge of a breakaway group.

Rahmani’s death in Pakistan is expected to further grip Islamabad over the alleged support it provides to the Taliban.

Pakistan has been trying to mediate peace talks between the militants and the Afghan government amid growing fears that a resurgent Taliban is increasing its attacks on civilian and security forces across Afghanistan. A weekend announcement by representatives from Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the US said Kabul and the Taliban are expected to hold direct talks by the end of the month.

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