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Afghan President Sees No Evidence Taliban Leader Is Dead

Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansur, Taliban militants' new leader, is seen in this undated handout photograph by the Taliban

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said there is no evidence that Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansur is dead.

As he headed to a regional conference in Islamabad December 8 that has raised hopes for a revival of peace talks with the Taliban, Ghani sought to stifle rampant speculation about Mansur's fate.

A Taliban audio message over the weekend purported to show that Mansur was alive and well, but some insurgents questioned its authenticity. And Ghani's own spokesman had tweeted on December 4 that Mansur was dead.

"There is no evidence that Mullah Mansur has been killed," Ghani told a press conference on December 7.

Mansur was reported critically wounded in a gunfight at a Taliban gathering near Quetta in Pakistan last week.

Mansur was declared Taliban leader in July, but splits immediately emerged in the group, with some Taliban leaders refusing to pledge their loyalty to the new leader.

A breakaway faction of the Taliban led by Mullah Mohamed Rasool was formed last month, in the first formal division in the once-unified group.

Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters