Taliban Leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar was thought to be dead Tuesday morning after a reported shootout resulted in his sudden disappearance. But Sulail Shaheen, a Taliban spokesman, tweeted that the reports of his death are “lies and totally baseless.”
The Taliban have denied what happened, despite claims of internal division one month after the takeover of Afghanistan. Following rumors, a supposed audio voice message was released of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the deputy prime minister, saying that is “alive and well.” Having not seen him since, critics are skeptical, with questions mounting that he may actually be dead.
Shaheen, who provided the voice message from Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, said the reports of his death are totally false.
“Mullah Bradar, deputy PM, Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, in a voice message rejected all those claims that he was injured or killed in a clash,” Suhail Shaheen said, using an alternate English spelling of Baradar’s name.
Accompanying the audio message was a video of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar at a meeting in the city of Kandahar, but analysts have stated that the video could have been recorded any time in the past month. Reuters reported that the video could not be verified and that it was unclear when it was shot.
“Over the past few nights, I have been away on trips,” Baradar said in the audio message, according to The Hindustan Times. “Wherever I am at the moment, we are all fine, all my brothers and friends.”
“Media always publishes fake propaganda,” Baradar allegedly continued in the recording. “Therefore, bravely reject all those lies, and I 100% confirm to you there is no issue and we have no problem.”
Baradar, once known as “Baradar the Butcher,” was rumored to have clashed with Sirajuddin Haqqani, leader of the “Haqqani network.” Based near Pakistan, the Haqqani members took the blame for some of the worst suicide attacks of the war in Afghanistan. It is speculated that the shootout was between these two groups, with both leaders reported missing.
There have also been entirely separate rumors that Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar’s supporters had fought with another unnamed senior Taliban figure over “how to divide Afghanistan’s ministries.”
“According to the Afghanistan Analysts Network,” The Guardian reported, “Baradar was already considered to have lost out in the internal Taliban disputes over the formation of the new government.”
The Times of India have also reported that there is “chatter” in Pakistan and Afghanistan that he may have contracted Covid-19.
The Taliban continue to deny claims that either Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar or Sirajuddin Haqqani are dead.
Though appointed deputy prime minister, Baradar was once considered the “likely head” of the new Taliban government, according to Reuters. However, he has not been seen in public in recent days, and he did not attend the Kabul meeting on Sunday with Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani.
The Taliban movement’s supposed supreme leader, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, has also vanished from public view since Aug. 15, when the organization took over Afghanistan. All that has been seen of Akhundzada was a public statement about the takeover.
“Our clear message is that we do not want a monopoly of power,” he said in his official statement following the takeover. “All Afghan tribes and races need each other.”
“Your support and siding with invaders is like the work of those abhorrent faces who in our past history supported the Britons and the Soviets,” Akhundzada said of American intervention in Afghanistan, though “the doors of forgiveness and tolerance are open.”
The reason many are skeptical that the leaders are actually alive stems from an incident in 2015, when it was finally revealed that the Taliban movement’s founder, Mullah Omar, had been dead for nearly two years. During that time, the Taliban continued to issue statements in his name.