Taliban Release Audio Purported to Be of Their Chief
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – The Taliban issued what they said was an audio recording of their chief, Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, in an effort to quiet speculation that he had been killed or wounded in an internecine shooting on Tuesday in the village of Kuchlak, in Pakistan.
“I would like to discuss the Kuchlak issue, where my name is mentioned in some media outlets that in a shootout between two Taliban factions my injury or death resulted,” the man in the recording said, identifying himself as the group’s leader.
“Brothers, it’s not factual news. There is no truth in it,” he added. “They are trying to prove that there are differences among Taliban that are getting so grave that they now fight against each other.”
It was not immediately possible to confirm the message’s authenticity, although the Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, had hours earlier said the statement would be released soon.
The statement itself referred to an episode that took place Friday in which civilians were killed by the Afghan National Army in an accidental attack, The New York Times reported.
The dissidents were said to be upset by the killing of a breakaway leader, Mullah Mansour Dadullah, and hundreds of his followers, in fighting with the mainstream Taliban. Mullah Dadullah had reportedly aligned with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.
“Do trust me if I say that I have never been to Kuchlak for years,” the man in the recording said. “I am among my friends, fine, sound and well.” There was no proof, however, that the Taliban leader had not been wounded, as some accounts had insisted. Kuchlak is a suburb of Quetta.
While the man purported to be Mullah Mansour in the recording said that “we would never fight for leadership positions,” the new Taliban leader has faced significant opposition from within the Taliban’s ranks, in addition to the Mullah Dadullah faction, since he emerged as the Taliban’s leader this summer.
The Taliban were sensitive to claims that their new leader was dead, because Mullah Mansour himself took power after the organization falsely maintained for two years that its founder, Mullah Muhammad Omar, was still alive.
That led to criticism within the organization because Mullah Mansour had apparently lied for many years, even to senior Taliban followers, about their leader.