Taliban leader, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, has reportedly been seriously wounded, following a shootout, between senior members of the movement, in Pakistan.
Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour has been seriously wounded in Pakistan in a shootout between senior members of the Islamist movement, Taliban sources said on Wednesday, but the group’s main spokesman dismissed their report as “baseless”.
The conflicting accounts deepen the confusion over the already opaque leadership situation in the Taliban following the death of the movement’s founder Mullah Mohammad Omar and cloud prospects for any resumption of stalled peace talks.
Two Taliban commanders said Mansour, whose authority is disputed by rival factions in the Islamist movement, was wounded when fighting broke out over strategic issues in the house of a senior Taliban leader called Mullah Abdullah Sarhadi outside Quetta in western Pakistan.
“During the discussion, some senior people developed differences and they opened fire on each other,” one of the commanders said.
He said five senior Taliban members had died on the spot and more than a dozen, including Mullah Mansour, had suffered serious bullet injuries. Mansour was being treated in a private hospital after being hit four times by bullets from an AK-47 assault rifle, the Taliban commander said.
However, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid denied the incident ever took place and said Mansour was in Afghanistan.
“This is a rumor which is completely baseless. Akthar Mohammad Mansour is totally fine and nothing has happened to him,” he told Reuters.
“This is the act of Afghan intelligence agencies. They spread these rumors about a clash between Taliban leaders. Nothing happened like this even in that area”.
The Taliban has faced serious internal divisions since it was confirmed in July that Mullah Omar had actually died two years earlier.
Mansour, Mullah Omar’s longtime deputy, was immediately named leader but some sections of the Islamist group quickly rejected his claim, accusing him of covering up Omar’s death and saying that Pakistan had steered his appointment.
His grip on the leadership appeared to have been tightened by the capture of the northern city of Kunduz in late September, which insurgents held for several days before government forces could regain control.