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Taliban Releases Purported Audio Message From Leader

Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansur.
Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansur.

The Taliban has released an audio message it says is from its leader, Mullah Akhtar Mansur, to prove that he is still alive after reports he was severely wounded or killed in a shoot-out in Pakistan.

Durin the 16-minute message, the man purported to be Mansur says the reports about his condition were spread intentionally to create divisions within the Taliban.

"I am among my people. This incident never happened and it is not true. This is propaganda of the enemy," says the man in the recording.

Although it was not possible to verify the voice as being Mansur's, some senior Taliban members said it sounded like him.

The statement comes after days of uncertainty following several reports of a firefight on December 1 near Quetta involving Mansur and several other Taliban leaders in which many people are said to have been killed or wounded.

Several Taliban members and Afghan and Pakistani officials said Mansur had been seriously wounded and taken to the hospital. Some reports said he had succumbed to his injuries.

Mansur's leadership has been rejected by some factions of the Taliban who accused him of covering up Mullah Omar's death.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AFP, and AP