Taliban Supremo Releases Audio Junking ‘Death’ Rumours

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Kabul: An audio tape purportedly recorded by Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansoor has been released in an attempt to quash the rumours that he has been killed in infighting, reported Sky News on Sunday.

The reports of the gun battle at a meeting in Kuchlak, Pakistan emerged last week.

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“I have recorded this message to let everyone know that I am alive,”  a voice, claiming to be Mansoor, says in the recording.

“About the news that there was fighting between the Taliban in a meeting and my name was also mentioned, that I was wounded and some media and some people said that I passed away later.

“Brothers, this news is baseless, there is no doubt, this is the propaganda from the enemy.”

The voice in the 17-minute recording is reported to be similar to previous recordings of Mansoor and Afghan officials said they were working to verify the clip.

“I didn’t have a fight with anyone, no meeting was held and I have not been to Kuchlak in years,” the voice says, referring to the town near Quetta where the shootout was said to have taken place.

The man in the recording also offered his condolences to the relatives of those killed in a firefight between government forces and the Taliban in the Wardak province of Afghanistan on Friday – three days after Mansoor was allegedly shot.

However, senior sources within the Taliban told AFP news agency they had doubts about the authenticity of the message.

“I think it’s a faked audio. I believe he’s dead,” an unnamed senior Taliban source said.

Another Taliban source told AFP: “I am not satisfied after hearing the clip that it belongs to Mansoor.”

A spokesman for Afghanistan’s first vice president Abdul Rasheed Dostum had last week claimed Mansoor was wounded in a shootout, while multiple intelligence and militant sources claimed he was dead.

Mansoor took over as the head of the Afghan Taliban in July after the death of his predecessor Mullah Omar, who led the movement for almost 20 years but had not been seen in public since the 2001 US-led invasion of Afghanistan.

But the secretive leader has faced internal challenges to his leadership since taking over, including by a breakaway faction that has fought militants loyal to him.

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