Questions are mounting in Afghanistan after two senior Taliban leaders — the group’s supreme leader and new deputy prime minister — have vanished from public view, sparking speculation one was killed in a shootout with rivals.
The Taliban on Tuesday denied that Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who was only named deputy prime minister last week, had been killed or injured in a clash.
Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen claimed Baradar had issued a voice message rejecting the claims.
“He says it is lies and totally baseless,” Shaheen tweeted.
The Taliban also released footage that supposedly showed Baradar at meetings in the city of Kandahar, but it was not immediately clear when the video was shot.
It follows days of rumors that Baradar’s supporters had clashed with those of Sirajuddin Haqqani, head of the Haqqani network that has been blamed for suicide attacks throughout the war.
There were also reports he had been killed in a fight with another Taliban leader over how to divide the new government’s ministries, according to the Guardian.
The speculation surrounding Baradar’s death also comes after rumors of internal rifts in the Taliban just one month after they seized control of the country.
The Taliban have repeatedly tried to deny reports of internal division without the group.
Baradar, the feared Taliban co-founder who was once nicknamed “Baradar the Butcher,” was widely thought to be the leader of the new Taliban government.
Meanwhile, the group’s supreme leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada hasn’t been seen in public since the Taliban seized control of Kabul a month ago.
A spokesperson denied rumors of his death, the Guardian reports.
The speculation may have been fueled by the Taliban’s own track record after they hid the death of the group’s founder, Mullah Omar, for two years.
His death was only made public in 2015.