Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar on Monday released an audio message saying he is alive and well after rumors of his death spread on social media. The rumours said that he had died in a power struggle with leader of the Haqqani Network Anas Haqqani.
In the audio message posted by the Taliban, Baradar dismissed the reports of any death or injury as "fake propaganda."
Social Media is Abuzz with Rumors of Baradar's Death
The message, tweeted by Taliban spokesperson Mohammad Naeem, followed reports that Baradar was injured or killed in clashes among the Taliban, Tolo News said. The verdict on social media was clear and indicated that Baradar was missing in action.
Many internet users speculated that the Deputy Prime Minister was fatally shot in a shootout between rival Taliban factions at the presidential palace. There were also several reports that suggested he had been infected with Covid or killed in a bombing.
Baradar Says He is Alive and Has Been Away on Trips
"There had been news in the media about my death. 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," Baradar said in the clip, according to AFP.
"Media always publish fake propaganda. Therefore, bravely reject all those lies, and I 100 per cent confirm to you there is no issue and we have no problem."
Taliban spokesperson from Qatar office Suhail Shaheen also tweeted denying the reports of the Taliban co-founder's death.
He wrote, "Mullah Bradar Akhund, Deputy PM, Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in a voice message rejected all those claims that he was injured or killed in a clash. He says it is lies and totally baseless."
Factionalism Within the Taliban After Baradar's Appointment as the Deputy PM?
According to multiple media reports, gunfire was heard in Kabul on Friday night. Some reports also said that Faiz Hameed, the head of Pakistan's ISI had rushed to Kabul following the clash between Baradar and Haqqani-supported groups in which Baradar sustained injuries. The incident reportedly took place over an alleged disagreement among the Taliban leaders on how to resolve the situation in Panjshir.
According to The World is One News, an Indian multinational news channel, there's a proxy war unfolding inside the Taliban. One group is supported by Qatar and the other is by Pakistan. Baradar belongs to the Qatar faction and has a bad history with Pakistan. In 2010, Pakistan authorities arrested and tortured him. Whereas, Qatar put him in luxurious hotels and appointed him leader-in-waiting and hence Bardar's loyalty is more towards Qatar, according to WION. Some reports say the power struggle between Baradar and Haqqani leaders has intensified.
The recent conciliatory tone from Baradar on issues such as women's rights, working with the international community and amnesty for members of the former Western-backed government runs counter to the ideology of the Haqqani network, a family-based Islamist group that has assumed the role of the Taliban's de facto diplomatic arm.