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Afghanistan: Clash between Afghan Taliban fighters leaves nine dead

3rd Aug 2015
Afghanistan: Clash between Afghan Taliban fighters leaves nine dead
By Zabihullah Tamanna

KABUL, (AA): Fighting between two groups of Taliban in northern Afghanistan on Sunday left at least nine dead in the first possible sign of division among the organization’s rank-and-file following news of Mullah Muhammed Omar’s death.

A group of ethnic Uzbek fighters clashed with a Pashtun group in Qaisar, Faryab province, when the Uzbek group refused to obey the orders of the Pashtun leader, a local official said.

Mohammad Reza Rezaee, a provincial army spokesman, said at least nine militants were killed and 11 wounded.

“The fight, which broke out this morning, is still underway,” he told Anadolu Agency. He said the two groups had been fighting side by side against the security forces just days earlier.

Thousands of local and foreign Taliban fighters recently took charge of more than 100 villages in the region but the security forces had since retaken some ground, Rezaee said.

“The fighters belonging to Mullah Hafiz, a Pashtun ethnic commander, and the Taliban’s Uzbek ethnic deputy shadow governor Mullah Abdul Samad have clashed after the Uzbek fighters rejected Mullah Hafiz’s orders,” Rezaee said.

“We see these cracks among [them] as goodwill.” He did not say how the army received the information.

The death of Omar, who led the Taliban from 1996, was announced on Wednesday. His successor, Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, is said to be deeply opposed by some senior figures in the Taliban.

A number of prominent commanders snubbed the council meeting that saw him elected while others are said to have stormed out, including Omar’s son and brother.

The clash between the Pashtun and Uzbek fighters could be the first sign of disunity on the frontline between ordinary Taliban fighters.

The group’s spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, denied there was an internal dispute over the leadership.

“I spoke with our governor Qari Salahuddin hours ago,” Mujahid told Anadolu Agency. “He ensured me about unity among fighters on the battle ground.”

[Photo: Taliban militants surrender to Afghan authorities in western Badghis province of Afghanistan on July 11, 2015.
Photographer: Badghis Governorship/Anadolu Agency]

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