Taliban co-founder and acting Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Ghani Baradar appeared in a video to deny speculation he was hurt or killed in a clash with a rival faction of the fundamentalist group.
"No this is not true. I am OK and healthy," Baradar said in an interview with national TV which was posted on Twitter by the Taliban's political office in Doha on September 15.
In the brief video, Baradar also refuted rumors that there is intense infighting within the new government in Kabul as the Taliban tries to transform from a guerrilla insurgency to a group that can govern Afghanistan.
"The media says that there are internal disputes. There is nothing between us, it is not true,” he added.
The denials come amid rumors in recent days that Baradar had been killed or wounded in a fight between his supporters and those of the Haqqani network, a group affiliated with the Taliban that holds several top positions in the new government.
On September 15, Anas Haqqani, the younger brother of the Taliban's newly appointed Acting Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani, also issued a statement on Twitter denying reports of internal rifts in the movement.
Speculation about the fate of Baradar, once seen as the likely head of a Taliban government, was fueled further when he had not been seen in public for some time.
As the former head of the Taliban’s political office in Doha, Baradar served as the chief negotiator during talks between the group and the United States that paved the way for the U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan in August.
However, he did not join a Taliban delegation that met in Kabul on September 12 with visiting Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani.
In the clip, Baradar said he had been on a trip in the southwestern provincial capital of Kandahar, where Taliban supreme leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada is believed to be based, when the visit took place and had not been able to get back in time.
Earlier, the Taliban had released an audio recording and handwritten statement, both purportedly by Baradar, in which he denied that he had been killed. But those statements couldn’t be independently verified.
Top Taliban Figure Baradar Denies Internal Feud, Refutes Rumors Of Death