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Taliban leader Hebatullah Akhundzada may be dead due to coronavirus: report

02 Jun 2020 1TV News

Taliban supreme leader Hebatullah Akhundzada has possibly died due to coronavirus, a report by Foreign Policy suggested on Monday.

Three Taliban figures in the Pakistani city of Quetta, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they believed Akhunzada had died of the illness, according to the magazine.

A Taliban official quoted in the report, however, said that Akhundzada was recovering.

“Our leader is sick, but he is recovering,” Moulawi Muhammad Ali Jan Ahmed, a senior Taliban military official was quoted as saying.

An Afghan government official said other Taliban leaders, including many in the movement’s office in Doha, Qatar, who negotiated a bilateral deal with the United States that was signed in February, were also ill with COVID-19.

“Nearly all the Taliban leadership in Doha has the bug," the unidentified official was quoted as saying.

“This is significant because if talks [between the Afghan government and the Taliban] are likely not to start within the next few weeks if they’re sick, how long will they keep up the cease-fire?” the official added.

The report, citing Taliban officials, said Akhunzadahad not been seen for the past three months and had not made any voice recordings, including an Eid al-Fitr message released as a statement ahead of the holiday last month.

Ahmed, the senior Taliban official, said Akhunzada had been hospitalized but he would not confirm where.

Asked if the Taliban’s leader had received treatment in Pakistan, he responded: “Why do you people think that Pakistan is the only country [where he would be hospitalized]? There are other countries that are stronger than Pakistan, that support us, and the world knows that. I will not name the country, but it is a powerful country that is one of our allies.”

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, however, on Twitter rejected the report saying its leaders were well and were carrying out their duties.

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