KABUL, Afghanistan, Dec. 6 (UPI) — The Taliban on Saturday released an audio message in which a man claiming to be Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, the group’s leader, refuted reports by the Afghan government that he was killed during in-fighting last week.
Mansoor was named head of the Taliban in July after the militants announced their former leader and founder, Mullah Mohammad Omar, had died of an unspecified illness.The appointment was reported to have led to conflict within the group.
On Thursday, Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah said Mansoor was injured in a gunfight with rival militants at a meeting in the Kuchlak district of Pakistan’s Balochistan province.
A later official statement said Mansoor had succumbed to his wounds.
In the Sunday audio message, a man claiming to be Mansoor said he was not in Kucklak and there was “no truth in the rumors that I was either injured or killed.”
“The audio message is aimed at giving you assurance that I am safe,” Xinhua news agency quoted the man as saying.
He said the reports of his death were “enemy propaganda” created by those “who cannot tolerate the Muslims’ achievements” and are “bent upon creating panic among the Muslims and the mujaheddin.”
The audio message has not been independently verified.