Two Taliban leaders mysteriously absent

Two top Taliban leaders did not appear after the force took full control of Afghanistan, fueling speculation about their fate.

A month after the Taliban entered Kabul and took full control of Afghanistan, Supreme Leader Haibatullah Akhundzada still hasn’t appeared in public. After speculation emerged that Akhundzada was dead, a Taliban spokesman denied it.

Abdul Ghani Baradar, one of the Taliban’s most publicly-appeared leaders, has also been absent from the public eye for the past month, even though he has been appointed deputy prime minister in the Taliban’s interim government.

Questions about the fate of Baradar, the former head of the Taliban political body and a key player in the Doha peace talks, began to rise as he had not appeared in public for many years. day.

In the capital, Kabul, there were rumors that Baradar had been killed or seriously wounded in an altercation with a Taliban leader over a dispute over the division of positions within the Afghan ministries.

Taliban Supreme Leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada (left) and Interim Deputy Prime Minister Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.  Photo: AP.

Taliban Supreme Leader Haibatullah Akhundzada (left) and Interim Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Ghani Baradar. Photo: AP.

The Taliban on September 13 tried to dispel rumors, but made the whereabouts of the two leaders more mysterious. The group published photos of handwritten letters from a Baradar deputy who said he was in Kandahar, then shared voice messages believed to be from Baradar over the background of old photos.

The fact that the Taliban released voice messages instead of video made Afghans more skeptical about Baradar’s fate, because the Taliban are no longer a secretive insurgent group and Baradar is no stranger.

Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen took to Twitter to deny the rumors.

“Bradar, Deputy Prime Minister of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, in a voice message denied all rumors that he was injured or killed in the clash. He said those rumors were false and completely pointless. base,” wrote Shaheen, using a different spelling of Baradar’s name.

Videos and a photo were also shared showing Baradar in Kandahar, but it was not possible to determine when the photo was taken.

When Mohammad Omar, the founder of the Taliban, died, the group kept information about his death a secret and for the next two years repeatedly made statements in his name.

Baradar is seen as being defeated in the internal war to form a new Taliban government, according to the Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN). Baradar was originally supposed to take on the role of prime minister, but when the interim government cabinet was announced, he became deputy prime minister.

Of the three deputy chiefs of the Taliban’s supreme leader before the force entered Kabul, Baradar was the only one who did not have an important ministry. Military leader Yaqub Omar, son of the Taliban’s founder, became defense minister, while Sirajuddin Haqqani was interior minister.

AAN also noted that supreme leader Akundzada’s absence from all public and private events, nearly a month after the Taliban took control of Kabul, suggests he may not be alive. Analysts say even a reclusive leader like Omar made several public appearances when he took the reins of Afghanistan more than 20 years ago, including meeting foreign officials, giving radio broadcasts and paying talks. interview.

“So it would be strange if Haibatullah was still alive and reclusive when the Taliban were in power. Right now he seems to be playing a symbolic role, able to unite forces without actually appearing or showing off. expression,” AAN said.

Huyen Le (Follow Guardian)

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