Power struggle sows confusion, raises concerns about potential defections to Islamic State

Islamabad/Kabul : The son of late Taliban chief Mullah Omar has been killed in Quetta with opposing factions and Pakistan having a hand in his death, according to a top Afghan lawmaker. Mullah Yaqub, who had hoped to succeed his father as the leader of the Taliban, was killed while at a meeting in the city four days ago (Thursday), Afghanistan’s Tolo TV reported quoting Afghanistan’s first deputy speaker of the Wolesi Jirga (Lower House of Parliament) Zahir Qadir.

“We were told about Mullah Omar’s death two years back and now his son Mullah Yaqub who was 21 or 22 years old was trying to be appointed as his father’s successor. But Mullah (Akhtar) Mansour also tried to become leader of the Taliban, therefore it is said that he was killed some days back”, Qadir said. “The opposing Taliban and Pakistan had a hand in killing Mullah Yaqub. The reality will be made clear soon”, he said.

However, Afghan Taliban rejected Qadir’s claim that Mullah Omar’s son had been killed in an attack in Pakistan. “There is no truth in the claim. Yaqub is alive and I am in contact with him”, a senior Afghan Taliban leader told The Express Tribune. Another Taliban leader, Dr. Aminul Haq, was quoted as saying that he contacted Yaqub two days ago and Afghan officials were issuing baseless statements to create a misunderstanding within the group.            The claims and counter claims come amid a widening Taliban rift over Mullah Akhtar Mansour’s nomination as the group’s supremo following the announcement of Mullah Omar’s death.

Mullah Omar’s family has refused to pledge allegiance to Mullah Mansour. Mullah Omar’s son Yaqub had challenged Mullah Mansour’s appointment as the Taliban chief.

Mullah Omar’s younger brother Mullah Abdullah Mannan is also against Mullah Mansour’s nomination. Senior Taliban leaders opposed to Mullah Mansour’s nomination as the group’s supremo have reportedly launched a parallel council and declared themselves as the ‘Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’.

The Taliban last week had confirmed the death of Mullah Omar in a statement. The statement did not say when and where he died but said “his health condition deteriorated in the last two weeks”. However, the Afghan government had said Mullah Omar died in April 2013 in Pakistan.

Head of Taliban’s Qatar office quits

The head of the Taliban’s Qatar-based political office has stepped down, a statement said, a high-profile resignation within leadership ranks highlighting growing discord over the movement’s recent power transition.

Mullah Akhtar Mansour was announced as the new Taliban chief on Friday after the insurgents confirmed the death of Mullah Omar, who led the militant movement for some 20 years.

But splits immediately emerged between Mansour and rivals challenging his appointment, exposing the Taliban’s biggest leadership crisis in recent years and one that raises the risk of a factional split. Underscoring the deepening internal divisions, Tayeb Agha stepped down yesterday as head of the Taliban’s political office, set up in Qatar in 2013 to facilitate peace talks, according to a statement.

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Taliban denies leadership crisis

Kabul : Afghanistan’s Taliban on Tuesday urged followers to disregard ‘enemy propaganda’ about internal fractures in their movement following the death of longtime leader Mullah Mohammad Omar and to unite behind his chosen successor.

The statement, signed by spokesmen Zabihullah Mujahid and Qari Yusouf Ahmadi, called on supporters to “help write messages and letters on social media” to show a united front.

Lately, Taliban fighters have been defecting to the Islamic State group in northern Kunduz province, and the two rival militant groups have increasingly fought it out there.

The IS, which already controls about one-third of Syria and Iraq, is thought to have a small but growing presence in Afghanistan.

The Afghan government, meanwhile, banned any public mourning for Mullah Omar, saying late Monday that it would cause “anguish and humiliation” for those who have lost loved ones to the war with the Taliban.

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