Taliban chief Haibatullah Akhundzada killed in Pakistan ‘months ago’: Reports

  • If the reports of Akhundzada’s death are accurate, he will be the third Taliban chief after Mullah Omar and Mullah Akhtar Mansour to have died in Pakistan.
There have been reports in the past of Afghan Taliban leader Haibatullah Akhundzada's death that have proved to be inaccurate. (REUTERS FILE PHOTO).
There have been reports in the past of Afghan Taliban leader Haibatullah Akhundzada's death that have proved to be inaccurate. (REUTERS FILE PHOTO).
Published on Feb 14, 2021 08:17 PM IST
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By | Edited by Sohini Sarkar

Conflicting reports emerged on Sunday about the fate of Afghan Taliban leader Haibatullah Akhundzada, with a section of the Afghan media reporting that he was killed in a blast in Pakistan’s Balochistan province last year.

However, senior Taliban leader Ahmadullah Wasiq described the reports of Akhundzada’s death as “false news and baseless rumours” and contended the Taliban chief was alive.

If the reports of Akhundzada’s death are accurate, he will be the third Taliban chief after Mullah Omar and Mullah Akhtar Mansour to have died in Pakistan.

Akhundzada was killed with Mullah Matiullah, the Taliban’s intelligence chief, and Hafiz Abdul Majeed, the group’s head of finance, in a blast at a safe house in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan, “months ago”, Hasht-e-Subh newspaper reported, citing its sources.

The house belonged to Majeed. While Akhundzada and Matiullah were killed almost instantly, Majeed died “two or three days later in a Pakistani military hospital”, the report said.

People familiar with developments said on condition of anonymity the blast was believed to have occurred in April 2020. The people confirmed that the blast had occurred in a house belonging to Majeed. They added that some more senior Taliban leaders were believed to have been killed in the blast.

Hours after the reports of Akhundzada’s death spread on Sunday, senior Taliban leader Ahmadullah Wasiq said on Twitter: “This is false news and baseless rumours have no truth. Spreading such rumours and false news is a failed propaganda attempt by the enemy's intelligence services. The enemy wants to hide its defeats in such rumours and distract the people’s minds.”

There have been reports in the past of Akhundzada’s death that have proved to be inaccurate.

However, it is not unknown for the Taliban to hide the death of its leaders. Mullah Omar’s death in Pakistan in 2013 was kept hidden from the public by the Taliban for about two years. The group confirmed the death in July 2015 only after Afghanistan’s spy agency went public with the development.

Mullah Omar’s successor, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, was killed in a US drone strike in Balochistan, in May 2016. Akhundzada was named the new head of the Taliban days later.

Akhundzada’s brother Hafiz Ahmadullah was killed with three others in a blast at a mosque located 25 km from Quetta on August 16, 2019. Akhundzada’s son was injured in the incident. The mosque was frequented by Afghan Taliban members and Akhundzada himself used to lead prayers there, reports at the time had said.

It is no secret that scores of top Afghan Taliban leaders are based in Pakistan. The top leadership council is called the “Quetta Shura” because most of its members are based in Quetta.

During Taliban deputy leader Abdul Ghani Baradar’s visit to Pakistan in December, video footage emerged that showed him acknowledging that the group makes all decisions related to the Afghan peace talks after consulting its leadership and clerics’ council based in Pakistan.

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