Palace shootout in Afghanistan: Taliban's Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar sidelined
- Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar was allegedly attacked
- Their bodyguards entered the fray and opened fire on each other
- Members of the Haqqani family received four positions
Mullah Baradar, a man with a moderate voice in Afghanistan's Taliban government, has been sidelined after a dramatic shootout in the presidential palace in Kabul, NDTV reported as people familiar with the matter.
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who led peace talks with the United States, was physically attacked by a leader of the US terrorist-designated Haqqani Network in early September during talks at the palace over forming the cabinet.
NDTV reported that Baradar had pushed for an "inclusive" cabinet that included non-Taliban leaders and ethnic minorities, which would be more acceptable to the rest of the world. At one point during the meeting, Khalil ul Rahman Haqqani rose from his chair and began punching the Taliban leader.
Their bodyguards entered the fray and opened fire on each other, killing and wounding several, the people said. While Baradar was not injured he has since left the capital and headed to Kandahar -- the group's base -- to speak with Supreme Leader Haibatullah Akhundzada, effectively the Taliban's spiritual head.
On September 7, the cabinet lineup was released, included no one from outside the Taliban, with about 90 percent of spots going to ethnic Pashtuns from the group.
However, members of the Haqqani family received four positions, with Sirajuddin Haqqani -- leader of the Haqqani Network who is on the FBI's most wanted list for terrorism -- becoming acting interior minister.
Baradar was named one of two deputy prime ministers. Around 2016, the Taliban and Haqqani groups merged.
The people said the head of Pakistan's intelligence agency, who was in Kabul during the discussions, backed the Haqqanis over Baradar, who spent about eight years in a Pakistan prison before the Trump administration facilitated his release to participate in peace talks.
However, the media office of the Pakistan military didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
Earlier, members of the Taliban have rejected reports of a clash. Baradar appeared on state-run television on Thursday to deny rumors he'd been wounded or even killed. Baradar wasn't present on September 12 to welcome Qatar's foreign minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, and he missed the Taliban's first cabinet meeting this week.
The relationship between the Haqqani faction and the Taliban has long been uneasy. Still, Anas Haqqani, a key leader of the group, also took to Twitter to deny any rift.