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Taliban Rejects Reports Leader Wounded in Firefight

FILE - An Afghan man reads a local newspaper carrying a headline about the new leader of the Afghan Taliban, Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 1, 2015.

Afghanistan’s Taliban has rejected widespread reports its leader, Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, was attacked and wounded in a firefight earlier this week. Officials in neighboring Pakistan, where the alleged incident happened, also have said they are not aware of it.

Afghan intelligence sources and Sultan Faizi, a spokesman for Afghan First Vice President Abdul Rasheed Dostum, had reported on Wednesday that Mansoor was hurt and several of his fighters were killed in the alleged clash at the residence of a Taliban commander near the southwestern Paksitani city, Quetta.

A statement by Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, a spokesman for the Islamist insurgency, said the Taliban chief was not present at the location of the alleged attack, and denied any such clash took place. He said that the “fabricated claim” is the work of the Afghan intelligence agency.

“Mujahideen have made many advances inside the country recently. The enemy merely wants to draw attention away from their failures with such fabricated rumors,” he said.

Verbal dispute escalated

Faizi told VOA the firefight between Mansoor and his host, Mullah Abdullah Sarhadi, followed a verbal dispute during the meeting of militant commanders.

“Mansoor was seriously injured and rushed to a hospital but we don’t know if he survived his wounds,” Faizi added.

“We have seen media reports. We are not aware about the incident. However, we have noted the Taliban spokesperson has denied that any such incident took place,” foreign ministry spokesman Qazi Khalilullah told reporters in Islamabad.

Mansoor became the head of the Taliban in late July after the group confirmed media reports that its founder, Mullah Omar, had died two years ago. But splits immediately emerged in the Islamist insurgency after some top Taliban leaders refused to pledge allegiance to Omar’s successor, though the insurgents have downplayed their internal rifts as routine disagreements not threatening the Taliban's integrity.