KABUL: The Taliban co-founder and now deputy prime minister of Afghanistan has released an audio statement on Monday, saying he was alive and well after news of his supposed demise went viral on social media.
Abdul Ghani Baradar, who was last week named as a number two to Mullah Mohammed Hassan Akhund, blamed “fake propaganda” for the death rumours in an audio message posted by the Taliban.
Social media has been in a frenzy over the speculation — particularly in India, where rumours swirled that he had been mortally wounded in a shootout between rival Taliban factions at the presidential palace.
“There had been news in the media about my death,” Baradar said in the clip.
“Over the past few nights I have been away on trips. Wherever I am at the moment, we are all fine, all my brothers and friends.
“Media always publish fake propaganda. Therefore, reject bravely all those lies, and I 100 percent confirm to you there is no issue and we have no problem.”
It was not possible to authenticate the message, but it was posted on official Taliban sites — including that of the spokesman of the political office of the new government.
The Taliban’s supreme leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada, was also rumoured to have died for several years before the group’s spokesman said he was “present in Kandahar” two weeks after they took power.
Chatter in Pakistan and Afghanistan had suggested he had contracted Covid or been killed in a bombing.
Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid on Tuesday announced 33 members of the “acting” government, saying that it will be led by Mohammad Hasan Akhund while the group’s co-founder Abdul Ghani Baradar will be the deputy Afghan leader.
Key figures in the interim govt:
Prime Minister – Mohammad Hasan Akhund
Deputy Prime Minister – Abdul Ghani Baradar
Interior Minister – Sirjauddin Haqqani
Foreign Minister – Amir Khan Muttaqi
Deputy Foreign Minister – Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai
Defence Minister – Mullah Yaqoob
Army Chief – Fasihuddin Badakhshani
Finance Minister – Mullah Hidayatullah
Deputy Culture and Information Minister – Zabihullah Mujahid
Taliban’s deputy leader Sirajuddin Haqqani will be the acting interior minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi will be the acting foreign minister, political chief Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai will be the acting deputy foreign minister and Mullah Yaqoob will be the acting defence minister, he announced during a press conference in Kabul.
Mujahid himself will be the deputy culture and information minister, Fasihuddin Badakhshani will be the army chief, and Mullah Hidayatullah will be the finance minister.
The heads of various other ministries will be appointed soon, Mujahid added.
“All groups have been represented in the cabinet,” he said.