Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour has reportedly died and Taliban has appointed Moulavi Haibatullah Akhunzada as the new caretaker chief, Pakistani local Urdu TV “Channel 24” quoted its own sources from Afghanistan as saying on Friday night.
Channel 24, without identifying its sources, said Mansour succumbed to the injuries that he sustained on Wednesday in a gunfight following a harsh argument during a meeting of Afghan Taliban commanders near Pakistan’s southwestern city of Quetta.
Akhunzada, who was the deputy chief of Taliban and a member of the supreme council, has reportedly been appointed as the new caretaker chief of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (Taliban), the reports said.
A source in Afghanistan also showed an alleged picture of Mansour depicting that he is dead, but it was not confirmed.
Earlier on Friday, a spokesman of Afghan Taliban rejected the reports of the death of Mansour, saying that the reports are “baseless, untrue propaganda of the enemy and intelligence agencies trying to sow confusion among the people.”
On Thursday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry also denied reports that Mansour has been injured in gunfight in the country’s southwestern Balochistan province.
“We do not have any reports about the incident and the Afghan Taliban spokesman has also denied the reports,” Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman Qazi Khalilullah said during media briefing.
Afghan officials claimed that Mansour was injured on Wednesday during a meeting of the Afghan Taliban in Kuchlak area, some 25 km from Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan.
An Afghan official had told media in Kabul on Wednesday that firing started in the meeting at the residence of a Taliban leader, Abdullah Sarhadi, after exchange of hot words that also killed at least four other Taliban commanders.
Sarhadi also denied the incident, according to a section of the Afghan media.
On Thursday, Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, issued a statement and rejected the reports as “part of propaganda by the Afghan intelligence agents”.
“Our credible sources state that Amir-ul-Mumineen (the Chief of faithful) has no presence in the stated area. The enemy falsely claimed that the incident took place in the home of Sarhadi, despite the fact that his home is not even based in Kuchlak region,” the statement said.
On July 29, Mansour was appointed the chief of Afghan Taliban to replace former Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar who passed away two years ago after a prolonged illness. Members of the leading council of the Taliban had also appointed Akhunzada and Mullah Sirajuddin Haqqani as the deputy heads.
According to Afghan media, the appointment of Mansour triggered controversies among Taliban ranks as different groups refused to accept him as the successor of Omar, the founder of Taliban. Since Mansour assumed leadership of Taliban, a couple of severe armed clashes between Mansour group and other Taliban groups had been reported.