The Taliban have been forced to deny that the deputy leader, Mullah Baradar, died after crazy rumors circulated that he was killed in a shootout with his political rivals.
The Taliban today insisted that Baradar is in Kandahar province to meet with the group’s supreme leader, Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada, to discuss the future of Afghanistan now that the United States has withdrawn. .
But the social media rumor mill believes he was actually killed in a shooting at the presidential palace in Kabul on Friday that erupted during a reunion with the powerful and ruthless Haqqani family.
The Taliban have so far produced a handwritten note and an audio recording as proof that Baradar is alive – which has only increased speculation even further.
The Taliban have been forced to deny insane rumors that deputy leader Mullah Baradar was shot dead in a clash in Kabul last week (pictured, Taliban guards in Kabul)
Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem released the audio recording on Monday.
In it, a man claiming to be Baradar accuses “media propagandists” of spreading false rumors about him – insisting that “me and all my colleagues are fine.”
“There had been news in the media about my death,” Baradar said in the clip.
“During the last few nights, I went on a trip. Wherever I am right now we are all doing well, all my brothers and friends.
The only evidence the Taliban produced is a handwritten note (photo) and audio recording, sparking more rumors
“The media always publish false propaganda. Therefore, courageously reject all these lies, and I confirm to you 100% that there is no problem and that we have no problem. ‘
The recording was posted on Twitter hours after a handwritten note was released, insisting that Baradar is alive.
The note – which was not signed by Baradar but by an MP, Mawlawi Musa Kaleem – denied that there had been a shooting at the palace and said Baradar was in Kandahar.
Muhammad Suhail Shaheen, one of the Kabul-based group’s top spokespersons, also denied the rumors.
“The information that Mullah Baradar Akhund was injured or killed is baseless and is not true, I categorically refute it,” he said.
Rumors about Baradar’s safety started circulating last week when the Taliban announced their new government and appointed him deputy prime minister, despite widespread belief that he would occupy the most senior position.
This led to speculation that he had been demoted due to internal conflicts between the founding members of the Taliban and the Haqqani network – a powerful faction of the Taliban whose family members have secured leadership positions in the new administration.
Speculation over Baradar’s health was fueled over the weekend after his absence from a high-level summit with Qatar (pictured), amid reports of internal political strife.
Speculation then escalated when Taliban leaders met with senior Qatari delegates in Kabul on Sunday, with Baradar evidently absent from the meeting.
Three members of the Haqqani family were at the summit along with other members of the new Afghan government – led by Prime Minister Mohammad Hasan Akhund.
Baradar is one of the founding members of the Taliban and was deputy to its first supreme leader, Mullah Omar, who died in 2013 of tuberculosis.
After Omar’s death, Baradar took over as head of the Taliban’s political wing and is one of the group’s most important figures.
But he is said to be in conflict with the Haqqani family, the leaders of the formidable Haqqani network which is affiliated with the Taliban but also has links with terrorist groups opposed to Islamists – like ISIS-K.
Two members of the clan – Sirajuddin and Khalil – now hold leadership positions in the new government, serving as Home Minister and Minister for Refugees.
Anna Haqqani also occupies a high-level negotiating role, and was present during the meeting with Qatari diplomats.
Baradar, one of the founding members of the Taliban (file image), has only been seen in public a few times since returning to Afghanistan last month
The fact that the Taliban previously covered the death of leader Mullah Omar for two years adds further fuel to the rumors.
It was only after Afghan intelligence revealed his death in 2015 that the Taliban publicly confirmed him.
The Taliban’s supreme leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada, is also believed to have died for several years before the group recaptured Afghanistan.
Since then, Islamists have claimed he was alive and in the country – somewhere in Kandahar province.
Akhundzada rarely appears in public, which may be why the Taliban have been reluctant to release footage of Baradar if the two meet.