Taliban deny leader Mullah Abdul Baradar is DEAD

Taliban deny leader Mullah Abdul Baradar is DEAD – but can only produce an audio recording as ‘proof’ after wild rumours of gunfight in presidential palace swept Afghanistan

  • Taliban forced to deny rumours that deputy leader Mullah Baradar is dead  
  • Comes after wild claim that he had been shot dead during a confrontation at Kabul’s presidential palace began circulating online 
  • Taliban insist he is actually in Kandahar, meeting the group’s supreme leader
  • But so-far the Islamists have only produced an audio recording and a handwritten note as proof, increasing speculation further 

The Taliban has been forced to deny that deputy leader Mullah Baradar is dead after wild rumours emerged that he was killed during a gunfight with his political rivals. 

The Taliban insisted today that Baradar is in Kandahar province meeting with the group’s supreme leader Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada to discuss Afghanistan’s future now the US has withdrawn.

But the social media rumour-mill believes he was actually killed in a gun battle in Kabul’s presidential palace on Friday that broke out during a meeting with the powerful and ruthless Haqqani family.

The Taliban has so-far produced a handwritten note and an audio recording as evidence that Baradar is alive – which has only served to increase speculation further.

The Taliban has been forced to deny wild rumours that deputy leader Mullah Baradar was shot dead during a confrontation 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 rumours about him – insisting ‘I and all my colleagues are OK’.

‘There had been news in the media about my death,’ Baradar said in the clip.

‘Over the past few nights I have been away on trips. Wherever I am at the moment, we are all fine, all my brothers and friends.

The only evidence the Taliban has produced is a handwritten note (pictured) and an audio recording, sparking more rumours

‘Media always publish fake propaganda. Therefore, reject bravely all those lies, and I 100 percent confirm to you there is no issue and we have no problem.’

The recording was posted to Twitter hours after a handwritten note was also circulated, insisted that Baradar is alive.

The note – which was not signed by Baradar but by a deputy, Mawlawi Musa Kaleem – denied there had been a shoot-out at the palace and said Baradar is in Kandahar.

Muhammad Suhail Shaheen, one of the group’s most-senior spokesmen who is based in Kabul, also rubbished the rumours.

‘Reports about Mullah Baradar Akhund being injured or killed are baseless and are not true, I categorically refute them,’ he said. 

Rumours about Baradar’s safety began circulating last week when the Taliban announced its new government and named him as deputy prime minister, despite the widespread belief that he would take the top job.

That led to speculation that he had been demoted due to in-fighting between Taliban founding members and the Haqqani Network – a powerful faction of the Taliban whose family members secured top positions in the new administration.

Speculation then intensified when Taliban leaders met with senior delegates from Qatar in Kabul on Sunday, with Baradar conspicuously 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 Taliban’s founding members and served as deputy to its first supreme leader Mullah Omar, who died in 2013 from tuberculosis.

After Omar’s death, Baradar took over as leader of the political wing of the Taliban and is one of the group’s most-senior figures.

But he is thought to be in conflict with the Haqqani family, leaders of the fearsome Haqqani Network which is affiliated with the Taliban but also has links to terror groups opposed to the Islamists – such as ISIS-K.

Two members of the clan – Sirajuddin and Khalil – now hold senior positions in the new government, taking the roles of interior minister and refugee minister.

Anna Haqqani also holds a role as a high-level negotiator, and was present during the meeting with Qatari diplomats.

Baradar, one of the Taliban’s founding members (file image), has been seen in public only a handful of times since arriving back in Afghanistan last month 

Adding further fuel to the rumours is the fact that the Taliban previously covered up the death of leader Mullah Omar for two years.

It was only after Afghan intelligence revealed his death in 2015 that the Taliban publicly confirmed it.

The Taliban’s supreme leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada, was also rumoured to have died for several years before the group recaptured Afghanistan.

Since then, the Islamists have claimed he is alive and in the country – somewhere in Kandahar province.

Akhundzada rarely appears in public, perhaps explaining why the Taliban have been reluctant to release images of Baradar if the pair are meeting. 

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