KABUL: The Afghan Taliban has issued a written statement purportedly quoting Jalaluddin Haqqani, the leader of the Haqqani insurgent group, in an effort to quell rumours of his death.
The statement, posted Sunday to the Taliban's website, quoted Haqqani mourning the loss of Mullah Omar, the one-eyed leader of the group whose death the extremists confirmed last week. The Afghan government says Mullah Omar died in April 2013.
The statement added that the new chief of the Afghan Taliban had been appointed with complete legitimacy.
The Taliban have announced that Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour is their new leader and released a purported audio statement from him Saturday. The statement released Sunday did not include any audio of Haqqani speaking to prove he is alive.
While news of Jalaluddin Haqqani's death had been making rounds for almost a month now, multiple credible sources in Taliban said that Jalaluddin Haqqani died almost a year ago of natural causes and was buried in Afghan province of Khost. However, none of the claims circulating about Haqqani could be independently verified.
The Taliban on Saturday denied reports of the death of the founder of Haqqani network.
“Some media outlets spread reports... about the death of a distinguished jihadi personality... Jalaluddin Haqqani,” the Taliban said in a statement posted on their website.
“This claim has no basis. Haqqani... was ill before but he has been blessed with good health for a prolonged period now and has no troubles currently."
Haqqani's family also rejected rumours of his death, according to an Afghan Taliban commander who spoke to AFP from an undisclosed location in northwestern Pakistan.
“I talked to his grandson (who is somewhere in eastern Afghanistan) and he completely rejected rumours of his death,” the commander said.
“'My grandfather is alive, I talked to him last week. He was weak and sick but alive and in good spirits', he told me."
Sources, however, say Sirajudin Haqqani, Jalaluddin's son, has been running the militant network for over a year now, ever since his father's illness. Following the appointment of Mullah Mansour as new Taliban chief, the Taliban Shura appointed Sirajuddin Haqqani as the operational commander of the Afghan Taliban.
Jalaluddin was known to be seriously ill for the past many years. Recently leaked Saudi cables had revealed that arrangements were made for his travel to Saudi Arabia in 2012 for treatment. Jalaluddin Haqqani, a Saudi passport holder, had requested for treatment in the kingdom.
Media accounts claimed that Jalaluddin, who would have been 62 years old in 2012, was suffering from Parkinson’s disease, while another news report said he was a patient of lupus.
A Reuters report said two other family members insisted Jalaluddin was not dead.
"Maulvi Jalaluddin Haqqani, no doubt, has become aged and suffering from different diseases but by the grace of Allah, he is safe and sound and alive," a close family member said.
However, a third member of the family said the reports were true.
Haqqani "died of a brain haemorrhage a year and half ago. He is buried in the Zadran area of Khost province," this person said.