Taliban chief rebuked by religious leaders in sign of turmoil

In the 15-page letter dated Dec. 7, a group of about three dozen religious leaders in Quetta refused to grant religious legitimacy to Mullah Mansour’s leadership. The collective condemned his recent crackdowns, saying he still lacked the stature to declare that dissenters were outlaws.

“Today, we do not have the kind of Amir ul-Momineen, according to the Sharia, with whom obedience is mandatory and dissent from whom is punishable by death,” the ruling said, referring to the title the Taliban use for their leader.

Qari Yusuf Ahmadi, a spokesman for the Taliban, sought to play down the religious leaders’ letter, insisting that most of the names on the document were not of prominent people and that the signatures of the known scholars were made up. “It’s an old fake version that popped up with a new date,” he said.

Other Taliban officials, however, said that the ruling was real — though they differed on the weight it carried — and that it was being widely talked about within the Taliban.