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KABUL, Afghanistan — A leading commander of a breakaway Taliban faction has been killed in infighting between militant groups, officials said on Thursday.

Mullah Mansour Dadullah was reported killed late Wednesday night in southern Zabul province by forces loyal to Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, who assumed leadership of the group this summer, said Ghulam Jailani Farahi, the province’s security chief.

The claim has not been independently confirmed, and past reports of commanders’ deaths have sometimes proved premature.

The Taliban have faced increasing defections after the announcement in July that the group’s founder and longtime leader Mullah Mohammed Omar had been dead for several years. A beneficiary of the Taliban infighting has been the Islamic State group in Afghanistan, which claimed Dadullah had joined them. He has denied that report to local media, but his forces were often said to be allied with local Islamic State groups.

In September, Mansour sent hundreds of fighters on motorcycles to Zabul in a bid to tamp down Dadullah’s mutiny after the dissident commander refused an order by Taliban leaders to leave the province.

The Taliban deny that the fighting has been between their own factions, instead blaming the violence on the Islamic State, which the Taliban have criticized for ruling “tyrannically” in the area. Dadullah, the Taliban loyal to Mansour insisted in a statement on Thursday, was the only dissident member in Zabul to have allied with the Islamic State.

Fighting between the groups has been continuous. The violence in Zabul led to major protests in Kabul this week after the decapitated bodies of seven ethnic Hazara civilians were found after they had been kidnapped in Zabul. Some sources have said they were killed by forces loyal to the Islamic State, while Afghan intelligence officials reported they were killed by breakaway Taliban factions.

Dadullah was tracked down by Taliban forces after they captured one of his Pakistani aides, Farahi, the security chief, said. Taliban fighters raided Dadullah’s house, killed him and then executed the Pakistani aide, he said.

Dadullah had a turbulent relationship with the Taliban leadership for years. In 2007 Omar stripped him of his military duties during a spat with the Taliban leadership council. He spent several years in Pakistani custody before being released in 2013.

smith.josh@stripes.com

Twitter: @joshjonsmith

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