— A breakaway Taliban faction has asserted that the main group’s supreme leader, Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, was wounded or even killed by dissidents within the group, but Taliban officials denied the reports.
It was unclear Thursday where the truth lay, given that both sides of the dispute have serious credibility problems. Mainstream Taliban officials denied for years that the group’s founder and previous leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, was dead, before finally admitting this summer that he had died two years earlier.
The dissidents, who are said to have aligned with the Islamic State, have denied claims from multiple sources that one of their own leaders, Mullah Mansour Dadullah, was shot to death last month along with hundreds of his followers.
On Wednesday, Afghan government officials said that Mullah Mansour had been wounded during a tense meeting of his commanders in Quetta, Pakistan, on Tuesday, apparently in retaliation for Mullah Dadullah’s reported killing. But there was no independent verification of that claim.
On Thursday, a spokesman for Mullah Dadullah’s breakaway faction, Mullah Abdul Manan Niazi, went further, asserting that Mullah Mansour had been killed in the reported shootout at the Quetta meeting.
Qari Muhammad Yousuf Ahmadi, a spokesman for the Taliban, rejected both those reports as baseless. “Our credible sources state that Amir ul-Momineen has no presence in the stated area and neither has a security incident occurred there,” Mr. Ahmadi said in a statement, referring to Mullah Mansour by a title meaning Commander of the Faithful.
Mullah Niazi said that Mullah Mansour had been “shot and killed” by a commander named Muhibullah as “an act of retaliation for the killing of Mr. Dadullah,” even though the spokesman had, until recently, maintained that Mr. Dadullah was not dead.