Rumours swirl over whereabouts of two top Taliban leaders, including supreme leader

Rumours swirl over whereabouts of two top Taliban leaders, including supreme leader
Taliban rejected the speculations as ‘baseless’ but did not provide substantial proof to refute claims

Speculation has been mounting over the whereabouts of the 塔利班’s most senior leader and acting deputy prime minister following their prolonged absence from public view.

Taliban’s co-founder Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, also referred to as supreme leader in charge of running Taliban government, has been missing from the public view since 15 August when the Islamist group came to power.

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who is on the 一种 sanctions terror list and named first deputy of the prime minister, has not been seen since reports of injury in a shootout with rival Taliban factions.

Taliban officials attempted to quell the rumours by calling it “baseless propaganda” and swiftly released a video allegedly of Baradar in a meeting and released a hand-written letter by the deputy’s aide.

The Islamist group also released an audio message purportedly of Baradar alongside his old photo.

The Taliban’s swift response to dispel the rumours surrounding their absence has prompted comparisons with the cover up of Taliban founder Mullah Omar’s death. Back then, the group continued to release audio messages and written statements in his name for two years after his deathbefore the group later finally confirmed his death.

“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,” Suhail Shaheen, Taliban spokesman said on Twitter.

The video footage released by the Taliban purportedly showed Baradar at meetings in the southern city of Kandahar. But the videos did not show anything to confirm the time or date when they were taken.

The audio message also raised questions as it comes at a time when Taliban is no longer a group in hiding but is officially in control of Afghanistan.

Baradar was also the Taliban’s key official who oversaw peace talks with the US in Doha.

“There had been news in the media about my death. 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,” a voice claiming to be of Baradar said in the audio clip.

“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.”

The speculations have been fuelled by a report by Panjshir Observer that Baradar had sustained wounds during a violent clash with members of the Haqqani Network in Kabul on 3 九月.

The clashes between supporters of Baradar and those of Sirajuddin Haqqani, head of the Haqqani network reportedly erupted over internal rivalry following the announcement of key roles in the new cabinet 上个星期.

The Haqqani network is a designated foreign terrorist organisation (FTO) by the US and its head, Sirajuddin, has been given the position of acting interior minister despite a $10 million bounty on his head by the FBI.

Baradar, who was one of the three deputies of the supreme leader and tipped to be the next prime minister, did not secure any major ministry.

He was also absent from the ministerial delegation which met Qatari foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani in Kabul on Sunday.

Afghanistan Analysts Network, independent non-profit policy research and analysis organisation, also underscored that Akhundzada’s absence from all public events suggest that he might have died.

It noted that even the one-eyed founder of the group, Mullah Omar gave radio statements and interviews and met foreign officials even if not filmed or photographed.

“It would be strange, therefore, if Hibatullah, now that the movement is in power, were alive and still so secluded. For the moment, he appears to function as a symbolic figurehead who can unify without actually appearing or speaking (as was also the case for Mullah Omar, who continued to be cited as supreme leader for two years after he had died).”

Taliban admitted to covering up the death of Omar for more than two years while official statements continued to be released in his name, 报道 英国广播公司. Omar died in Pakistan to illness on 23 四月 2013 but his statements were released till 2015.

The group said the news was suppressed as the end of 2014 was said to be the final year of operation by foreign forces in Afghanistan.

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