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Taliban releases video interview to dispel death rumours over senior official - but supreme leader still missing

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Afghanistan's acting deputy prime minister and Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar appeared in a video interview posted on Wednesday to refute rumours of his death and internal rift in the new government.

However, ‘supreme leader’ and in charge of running the government Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, has been in the shadows since 15 August when the Taliban laid siege on Kabul.

In the video shared by the Taliban's political office in Doha, Mr Baradar was seen seated on a sofa next to an interviewer with a Radio Television Afghanistan microphone.

"No this is not true, I am okay and healthy. The media says that there is internal disputes. There is nothing between us, it is not true," he said reading from a sheet of paper.

Mr Baradar has been missing from the discourse since reports emerged of him being injured in a shootout with rival Taliban factions at the presidential palace.

Reports suggested that Baradar's supporters had clashed with members of the Haqqani network, a group affiliated with the Taliban based near the border with Pakistan. Chief of the Haqqani network Sirajuddin has been given the position of acting interior minister despite the FBI placing a $10m bounty on his head.

"Praise be to god, we have a lot of kindness and mercy amongst us, such that does not even exist in a family. In addition, for many years, we have suffered and given sacrifices, in order to end the occupation. That is neither for power nor for the position," the leader added.

The Islamist militants since his disappearance tried to quell the rumours by calling them "baseless propaganda". Taliban leader Ahmadullah Muttaqi said that the latest interview of Mr Baradar will "officially thwart" all the "propaganda of the enemy".

Earlier, Taliban spokesperson Mohammad Naeem released a purported audio message from Mr Baradar where he can be heard saying that he was well and alive.

"Mullah Baradar, deputy prime minister, Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, in a voice message rejected all those claims that he was injured or killed in a clash. He says it is lies and totally baseless,” said Suhail Shaheen, the outfit's spokesperson from the Qatar office.

However, the deputy prime minister was also not a part of the ministerial delegation which met Qatar’s foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani in Kabul on Sunday.

He allegedly rushed to Kandahar following a massive brawl between two factions of the administration just days after the formation of the new government, the BBC reported citing sources.

Meanwhile, Time magazine named Mr Baradar on the list of the 100 most influential people of 2021 for being a “deeply pious figure”.

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