Taleban issues 'audio recording of leader'

KABUL • The Taleban issued what they said was an audio recording of their leader, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, last Saturday in an effort to quiet speculation that he had been killed or wounded in an internecine shooting last Tuesday in the village of Kuchlak in Pakistan.

"I would like to discuss the Kuchlak issue, where my name is mentioned in some media outlets that in a shoot-out between two Taleban factions, my injury or death resulted," the man in the recording said, identifying himself as the group's leader.

"Brothers, it's not factual news. There is no truth in it," he added. "They are trying to prove that there are differences among Taleban that are getting so grave that they now fight against each other."

But several senior Taleban sources yesterday cast doubt on the authenticity of the message, highlighting the mistrust following a two-year cover-up of the death of the Taleban's founder and first leader, Mullah Omar. Mawlawi Hanifi, a commander based in southern Helmand province, said: "I listened to the clip and it looks fake. I think his voice has been mimicked. Mansour himself fooled us for two years, how can we trust this now?"

Another senior Taleban source said that the group is buying time to select a new leader and bring their organisation out of "this sudden shock".

But Rahimullah Yousufzai, a Pakistani analyst and long-time Taleban observer, said the voice sounded like Mansour's. "I believe it is him," he said. However, he added: "Why did they wait almost five days to do that? If they'd done it earlier it might have been more effective."

NEW YORK TIMES, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 07, 2015, with the headline 'Taleban issues 'audio recording of leader''. Print Edition | Subscribe