KABUL: The Taliban’s main spokesman said on Saturday that he had received an audio statement from Mullah Akhtar Mansour, the Taliban leader reported to have been wounded or killed in a gunfight in Pakistan this week, and would release it shortly.
The statement on Twitter followed days of uncertainty over the fate of Mansour, after multiple reports said he had been badly wounded in the shootout at the home of another Taliban commander in Quetta, western Pakistan, late on Tuesday.
“A new message from the leader of Islamic Emirate, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour has just reached us. It will be released soon,” Zabihulla Mujahid said.
The movement, which is active in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, has repeatedly denied that Mansour had been hurt, dismissing the reports as “propaganda”. But there has so far been no direct statement from him.
Scepticism over the Taliban denials has been fuelled by the secrecy which surrounded the death of the movement’s founder, Mullah Mohammad Omar. He died in 2013 but this was not confirmed until two years later.
Earlier on Wednesday, International Media reported that Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour has been wounded in Pakistan in a shootout between senior members of the outlawed movement, quoting Taliban sources, while the group’s main spokesman denied it.
Mansour, whose authority is disputed by rival factions, was wounded when fighting broke out over strategic issues in the house of senior leader called Mullah Abdullah Sarhadi, two senior Taliban members said.
“During the discussion, some senior people developed differences and they opened fire at each other,” a senior Taliban commander said.
He said five senior Taliban members died on the spot and over a dozen including Mullah Mansour suffered serious bullet injuries.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid denied the incident took place.
“This is a rumour which is completely baseless. Akthar Mohammad Mansour is totally fine and nothing has happened to him,” he told Reuters.
The conflicting reports add to the confusion surrounding the leadership of the Taliban, which has split into hostile factions since it was confirmed in July that its founder Mullah Mohammad Omar had died two years earlier.
Mansour, Mullah Omar’s longtime deputy, was named as leader but his claim was quickly rejected by some sections of the group, who had accused him of covering up Omar’s death and said that his appointment was steered by Pakistan.