KABUL (Reuters) - The Taliban’s main spokesman said on Saturday that he had received an audio statement from Mullah Akhtar Mansour, the Taliban leader reported to have been wounded or killed in a gunfight in Pakistan this week, and would release it shortly.
The statement on Twitter followed days of uncertainty over the fate of Mansour, after multiple reports said he had been badly wounded in the shootout at the home of another Taliban commander in Quetta, western Pakistan, late on Tuesday.
“A new message from the leader of Islamic Emirate, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour has just reached us. It will be released soon,” Zabihulla Mujahid said.
The Islamist movement, which is active in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, has repeatedly denied that Mansour had been hurt, dismissing the reports as “propaganda”. But there has so far been no direct statement from him.
Scepticism over the Taliban denials has been fuelled by the secrecy which surrounded the death of the movement’s founder, Mullah Mohammad Omar. He died in 2013 but this was not confirmed until two years later.
Mansour, the longtime number two in the Taliban, was formally named leader immediately after Mullah Omar’s death was confirmed.
However his authority has been rejected by some factions in the Taliban who have accused him of covering up Mullah Omar’s death and seizing power without proper authority.
Reporting by Omar Fahmy and Mirwais Harooni; writing by James Mackenzie; Editing by Richard Balmforth