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Taliban reject rumors about co-founder’s death in armed clashes

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)
The file photo of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the leader of the Taliban delegation, speaking during talks with the Afghan government in Doha, Qatar, September 12, 2020 (by Reuters)

The Taliban have denied rumors that the group’s co-founder and new deputy prime minister of Afghanistan, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, has been killed or injured in armed clashes with rival factions.

Suhail Shaheen, a Taliban spokesman, announced in a tweet on Tuesday that Baradar had issued a voice message rejecting claims he had been killed or injured in a shootout with rivals.

“Mullah Baradar, deputy PM, Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, in a voice message rejected all those claims that he was injured or killed in a clash. He says it is lies and totally baseless,” Shaheen wrote in a post on his Twitter account.

The Taliban also released video footage purportedly showing Baradar at meetings in the southern city of Kandahar.

The senior Taliban leader rejected on Monday the rumors of his demise that had gone viral on social media, saying in an audio statement that he was alive and well.

Baradar blamed "fake propaganda" for the death rumors claiming that he had been mortally wounded in a shootout between rival Taliban factions at the presidential palace.

"There had been news in the media about my death," Baradar said in the clip. "Over the past few nights I have been away on trips. Wherever I am at the moment, we are all fine, all my brothers and friends."

The Taliban co-founder added, "Media always publish fake propaganda. Therefore, reject bravely all those lies, and I 100 percent confirm to you there is no issue and we have no problem."

There have been rumors in recent days that Baradar’s supporters clashed with loyalists of Taliban interior minister Sirajuddin Haqqani, with the group denying speculations over internal divisions.

Baradar, who was last week appointed as Afghanistan’s deputy prime minister and a number two to Mullah Mohammed Hassan Akhund in the Taliban transitional government, has been absent from public view, leading some Afghans to question whether the senior leader was alive.

The Taliban’s leader, Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada, has also not been seen in public since the Taliban takeover of Kabul on August 15, although he issued a public statement when the new government was formed last week.

The government of Afghanistan rapidly collapsed on August 15 and president Ashraf Ghani fled the country in the face of the lightning advances of the Taliban that followed US President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw the American troops in a disastrous pullout.

On September 7, the Taliban announced the formation of a caretaker government.

The group first ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 until the United States invaded the country and toppled the Taliban-run government in 2001 on the pretext of fighting terrorism following the September 11 attacks in the US.                                       

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