Taliban leaders DID have bust-up at Presidential palace, sources say

Taliban leaders DID have huge ‘hawks v doves’ bust-up at the Presidential palace before deputy PM Baradar fled to Kandahar, sources in the group reveal – but insist he was NOT shot dead

  • Row erupted between the minister for refugees and group’s co-founder Baradar
  • The deputy PM was reportedly unhappy about structure of interim government
  • It follows Taliban being forced to deny rumours that the deputy leader is dead 
  • The group insisted he is actually in Kandahar, meeting with their supreme leader

A huge bust-up erupted between leaders of the Taliban at the presidential palace before deputy leader Mullah Baradar fled to Kandahar, sources have revealed.

The row took place between Khalil ur-Rahman Haqqani – the minister for refugees – and the group’s co-founder Baradar, a senior Taliban official told the BBC. 

The pair reportedly exchanged strong words because deputy prime minister Baradar was unhappy about the structure of their interim government.

It is said the argument derived from disagreement over which members of the group should receive recognition for their victory in Afghanistan.

Baradar allegedly believes that focus should be placed on diplomacy, while the Haqqani group gives emphasis to fighting.

The Taliban states there was no argument and denies that Baradar is dead after wild rumours emerged that he was killed during a gunfight with his political rivals. 

The group insisted that Baradar is in Kandahar province meeting with the group’s supreme leader Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada to discuss Afghanistan’s future now the US has withdrawn.

But the social media rumour-mill believes he was actually killed in a gun battle in Kabul’s presidential palace on Friday that broke out during a meeting with the powerful and ruthless Haqqani family.

The Taliban produced a handwritten note and an audio recording as evidence that Baradar is alive – which only served to increase speculation further.

The Taliban has been forced to deny wild rumours that deputy leader Mullah Baradar was shot dead during a confrontation in Kabul last week (pictured, Taliban guards in Kabul)

Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem released the audio recording on Monday.

In it, a man claiming to be Baradar accuses ‘media propagandists’ of spreading false rumours about him – insisting ‘I and all my colleagues are OK’.

‘There had been news in the media about my death,’ Baradar said in the clip.

‘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.

The only evidence the Taliban has produced is a handwritten note (pictured) and an audio recording, sparking more rumours

‘Media always publish fake propaganda. Therefore, reject bravely all those lies, and I 100 percent confirm to you there is no issue and we have no problem.’

The recording was posted to Twitter hours after a handwritten note was also circulated, insisted that Baradar is alive.

The note – which was not signed by Baradar but by a deputy, Mawlawi Musa Kaleem – denied there had been a shoot-out at the palace and said Baradar is in Kandahar.

Muhammad Suhail Shaheen, one of the group’s most-senior spokesmen who is based in Kabul, also rubbished the rumours.

‘Reports about Mullah Baradar Akhund being injured or killed are baseless and are not true, I categorically refute them,’ he said. 

Rumours about Baradar’s safety began circulating last week when the Taliban announced its new government and named him as deputy prime minister, despite the widespread belief that he would take the top job.

That led to speculation that he had been demoted due to in-fighting between Taliban founding members and the Haqqani Network – a powerful faction of the Taliban whose family members secured top positions in the new administration.

Speculation then intensified when Taliban leaders met with senior delegates from Qatar in Kabul on Sunday, with Baradar conspicuously absent from the meeting.

Three members of the Haqqani family were at the summit along with other members of the new Afghan government – led by Prime Minister Mohammad Hasan Akhund.

Baradar is one of the Taliban’s founding members and served as deputy to its first supreme leader Mullah Omar, who died in 2013 from tuberculosis.

After Omar’s death, Baradar took over as leader of the political wing of the Taliban and is one of the group’s most-senior figures.

But he is thought to be in conflict with the Haqqani family, leaders of the fearsome Haqqani Network which is affiliated with the Taliban but also has links to terror groups opposed to the Islamists – such as ISIS-K.

Two members of the clan – Sirajuddin and Khalil – now hold senior positions in the new government, taking the roles of interior minister and refugee minister.

Anna Haqqani also holds a role as a high-level negotiator, and was present during the meeting with Qatari diplomats.

Baradar, one of the Taliban’s founding members (file image), has been seen in public only a handful of times since arriving back in Afghanistan last month 

Adding further fuel to the rumours is the fact that the Taliban previously covered up the death of leader Mullah Omar for two years.

It was only after Afghan intelligence revealed his death in 2015 that the Taliban publicly confirmed it.

The Taliban’s supreme leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada, was also rumoured to have died for several years before the group recaptured Afghanistan.

Since then, the Islamists have claimed he is alive and in the country – somewhere in Kandahar province.

Akhundzada rarely appears in public, perhaps explaining why the Taliban have been reluctant to release images of Baradar if the pair are meeting. 

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