Questions are mounting in Afghanistan after two senior Taliban leaders – the group’s supreme leader and the new deputy prime minister – disappear from public view, sparking speculation that one of them was killed in a shootout with rivals.
The Taliban denied on Tuesday that Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who was only appointed deputy prime minister last week, was killed or injured in a clash.
Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen claimed Baradar issued a voicemail message rejecting the allegations.
“He says these are lies and totally unfounded,” Shaheen tweeted.
The Taliban also released footage that allegedly showed Baradar at meetings in Kandahar City, but it was not immediately clear when the video was shot.
This follows rumors that Baradar’s supporters clashed with those of Sirajuddin Haqqani, head of the Haqqani network who has been accused of suicide bombings throughout the war.
According to the Guardian, it was also reported that he was killed in a scuffle with another Taliban leader over how to split the ministries of the new government.
Speculation surrounding Baradar’s death also comes after rumors of internal strife among the Taliban just a month after taking control of the country.
The Taliban have repeatedly tried to deny reports of internal divisions without the group.
Baradar, the formidable co-founder of the Taliban who was once nicknamed “Baradar the Butcher,” was widely regarded as the head of the new Taliban government.
Meanwhile, the group’s supreme leader, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, has not been seen in public since the Taliban took control of Kabul a month ago.
A spokesperson has denied rumors of his death, reports the Guardian.
Speculation may have been fueled by the Taliban’s own record after hiding the death of the group’s founder, Mullah Omar, for two years.
His death was not made public until 2015.