Herat officials said on Monday that rival Taliban factions in the western Afghanistan province have been embroiled in a deadly clash against each other, resulting in the deaths of as many as 11 Taliban fighters.
The clash allegedly took place in the Zirkoh village of Shandand district - a Taliban stronghold.
The Herat police department said that Mullah Abdul Rassool loyalists apparently stepped up efforts to push back rivals loyal to Mullah Akhtar Mansour.
Mullah Mansour was appointed as Taliban leader in August following the announcement of former leader Mullah Omar's death two years earlier. However, a faction within the Taliban refused to acknowledge his appointment and reportedly split from the group, appointing Mullah Abdul Rassool as their leader.
According to Herat police, the confrontation was started by Mullah Mansour's commander Maulavi Abdul Samad and rival commander Mullah Nangyali. Fighters loyal to Mullah Rassool allegedly set fire to their rival's bases.
Confirming the encounter between two Taliban factions in the area, the commander of 207 Zafar Army Corps, General Taj Mohammad Jahed said that 11 fighters were killed and ten others were wounded.
"The clash broke out between Taliban factions and a commander named as Mullah Samad was wounded. A second encounter started at around 6:30 am (on Monday) among the factions," he said.
In addition, the Herat governor's spokesman confirmed that there is division among the two groups in the area.
"The motive behind the clashes goes back to the disagreements between the leadership of the group. These agreements have had a major impact on smaller Taliban factions, anyhow, such confrontations will prevent their threats on security and this supports public security," Ehsanullah Hayat, the governor's spokesman said.
"Mullah Nangyali supports Mullah Abdul Rassool, it is said that he has the upper hand now, because the opposing side has lost fighters and some have been wounded and Nangyali is advancing," Herat police chief general Abdul Majid Rozai said.
The fighting between Taliban rival factions over recent months appears to highlight a growing rift within the group. Currently rumors are rife that a clash between leaders in Quetta in Pakistan has either claimed the life of, or wounded, Mullah Mansour. However, the Taliban has rejected these claims. Even President Ashraf Ghani said on Monday that there is no proof to back up the death claims.
The Taliban was toppled from power in the aftermath of a U.S led coalition military intervention in 2001 after being in power for six years.
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