Taliban kills its splintered commander Mawlawi Mahdi

Taliban on Wednesday claimed that it has killed Mawlawi Mahdi, a Hazara commander of the group in Sar-e-Pul province in northern Afghanistan, in an overnight clash in the western province of Herat.

A Taliban official in Herat said that Mahdi was killed in a clash last night but it is claimed that he was arrested first.

A source aware of the matter said that Mahdi had arrived in Iran and was handed over to the Taliban by Iranian officials on Wednesday.

But Naeem-ul-Haq, head of the information and culture for the Taliban in Herat, said that Mahdi was killed when he wanted to go to Iran last night through the Islam Qala city.

According to him, no one else was harmed in the clash.

A source told Amu that Mahdi was arrested at around 4:30 am local time on Wednesday in an area 5 kilometers away from Afghanistan-Iran border in Kohsan district of Herat. The source said that Mahdi was identified with the use of the phone of one of his men.

The source said the person named Tahir who is a resident of Yakawlang district in Bamiyan.

The Taliban’s defense ministry in a tweet on Wednesday morning said Mahdi was killed in a bordering area in Herat when he was “fleeing” to Iran.

Taliban so far has not published any photo or video from the incident, but a photo obtained by Amu shows that Mahdi was arrested first.

The rifts have deepened between the Taliban leadership in Kabul and their local commander and a former ally, Mawlawi Mahdi, in the north of Afghanistan, who is the only commander for the group that origins from Hazara ethnicity in the country.

Rifts between Mawlawi Mahdi and the Taliban leadership deepened in June when the group attempted his arrest in his birthplace Balkhab district in Sar-e-Pul proivnce.

Mahdi joined the Taliban two years ago as its commander in Balkhab. He was appointed as the head of the intelligence office of the Taliban in Bamiyan after the fall of Kabul. Soon after assuming his new responsibility, he was removed from his post and returned to his birthplace, Balkhab district.

After returning to his home province, Sar-e-Pul, he started accusing the Taliban of inattention to Shias, something that deepened the differences between him and the Taliban leadership.

His last photo was seen on social media with Tahir Zuhair, a cabinet minister under the previous government, back in July.

Following heavy clashes between Mahdi and the Taliban fighters in Balkhab district in July, thousands of families were displaced from the province over the fear of revenge by the Taliban.