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Taliban deny death of top member and deputy PM Mullah Baradar

Taliban deny death of top member and deputy PM Mullah Baradar
Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, left, and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar have not been seen for some time (AFP/Getty)
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The Taliban have denied that one of their top leaders has been killed in a shootout with rivals, following rumours about internal splits in the movement nearly a month after its lightning victory over the Western-backed government in Kabul.

 

Sulail Shaheen, a Taliban spokesman, said Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, former head of the Taliban political office who was named deputy prime minister last week, issued a voice message rejecting claims he had been killed or injured in a clash.

 

“He says it is lies and totally baseless,” Shaheen said in a message on Twitter.

Taliban deny death of top member and deputy PM Mullah Baradar

The Taliban also released video footage purportedly showing Baradar at meetings in the southern city of Kandahar.

 

The denials follow days of rumours that supporters of Baradar had clashed with those of Sirajuddin Haqqani, head of the Haqqani network that is based near the border with Pakistan and was blamed for some of the worst suicide attacks of the war.



The rumours follow speculation over possible rivalries between military commanders like Haqqani and leaders from the political office in Doha like Baradar, who led diplomatic efforts to reach a settlement with the United States.

 

The Taliban have repeatedly denied the speculation over internal divisions.

 

Baradar, once seen as the likely head of a Taliban government, had not been seen in public for some time and was not part of the ministerial delegation which met Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani in Kabul on Sunday.

 

The movement’s supreme leader, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, has also not been seen in public since the Taliban seized Kabul on Aug. 15, although he issued a public statement when the new government was formed last week.

 

Speculation over Taliban leaders has been fed by the circumstances surrounding the death of the movement’s founder, Mullah Omar, which was only made public in 2015 two years after it happened, setting off bitter recriminations among the leadership.

 

Taliban Seize $12.4 Million From Former Top Afghan Officials

Meanwhile, Taliban-controlled central bank said it had seized nearly $12.4 million in cash and gold from former top government officials on Wednesday, including former vice president Amrullah Saleh, Reuters learnt.



In a statement made available, the central bank disclosed that the money and gold had been kept in officials’ houses, although it did not yet know for what purpose.

 

Saleh’s whereabouts are unknown. He has vowed to resist the Taliban, who stormed to power a month ago, and last week a family member said the Taliban had executed his brother Rohullah Azizi.

 

In a separate statement, the bank urged Afghans to use the country’s local Afghani currency. It comes amid growing concerns that the country’s banks and firms are running short of money, especially dollars, which are widely used.

 

In a sign that the Taliban are looking to recoup assets belonging to former government officials, the central bank issued a circular to local banks last week asking them to freeze the accounts of politically exposed individuals linked to the previous government, two commercial bankers said.

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