Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour has reportedly been seriously wounded in a firefight following a heated verbal dispute at a meeting between militant commanders in Pakistan. Uncertainty clouds his fate, with some sources saying he was critically injured or killed. The clash reportedly took place at the private residence of Taliban commander Mullah Abdullah Sarhadi outside Quetta, Pakistan, on Tuesday.
NBC News reported that Afghan officials confirmed the story, while Taliban sources claimed the alleged incident never happened and no such meeting was ever held.
Sultan Faizi, a spokesman for the Afghan first vice president, said Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour had been hurt. Taliban commanders and members who spoke to NBC News on the condition of anonymity had the same account. An official Taliban spokesman, however, denied that the incident took place.
“This is totally baseless,” Zabihullah Mujahid said.
Taliban spokesmen have since dismissed the report as propaganda from the Afghan intelligence service. It should be noted that the Taliban has a history of denying news stories that could harm the public perception of their strength. It took them more than two years to publicly acknowledge that their reclusive, longtime supreme commander, Mullah Omar, had died in 2013.
Mansour, then second-in-command, was appointed chief of the Taliban in late July of this year, though splits emerged soon after as his appointment to the leadership was called illegitimate by some rival factions within the militant Islamist movement.
According to The Asian Age, Sultan Faizi was further quoted as saying Mansour was being treated for his wounds.
“Mansour was seriously injured. He was rushed to hospital and we are not sure if he survived his wounds,” Faizi said.
Anonymous sources quoted by The Australian claimed they heard Monsour had died from his injuries, but stressed that they could neither confirm nor deny those rumors. An official Taliban spokesman also denied the story, saying it was a rumor cooked up to destabilize the peace talks between the government and the Taliban, though The Asian Age further reported another source close to Monsour’s group confirmed the shootout and that Monsour was among the injured.
“There were differences on some points which later turned into harsh words, then Sarhadi opened fire and the others returned fire,” the inside Taliban source said.
A senior Taliban commander was quoted by Reuters as further confirming the story of the firefight and Monsour’s death.
“I am hundred percent sure that Mullah Mansour is no more,” he said.
He also speculated that Sheikh Haibatullah Akhundzada, Mansour’s second deputy, would likely take over the leadership.
As of now, there has been no direct evidence for the alleged firefight between the senior commanders of the Taliban, nor has there been any statement from Mansour himself, though the New York Times reported that Taliban officials have promised to release a voice recording of Monsour to prove he is alive. It is unclear what Mansour’s death would mean for the resumed peace process. Conflicting reports have continued to surface, but should the alleged shootout and the rumors about Mansour’s death or injury prove to be true, it would expose the deep divisions and factional strife within the Taliban.
As previously reported by the Inquisitr, the U.S. embassy in Kabul recently warned of an increase in violence as the Taliban stepped up attacks on the battlefield in Afghanistan. Mujahideen groups belonging to the Taliban have made many military advances inside Afghanistan recently. If Mansour turns out to be badly wounded or even dead, it would deliver a devastating blow to the Islamist insurgency, as no viable successor exists at this time.
[Photo by Majid Saeedi/Getty Images]