Taliban Clashes Kill 47 in Afghanistan as Rival Factions Escalate Violence

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Afghan Taliban fighters look on as they listen to Mullah Mohammad Rasool Akhund, the newly appointed leader of a breakaway faction of the Taliban, Farah, Afghanistan, November 3, 2015.Credit: AFP

Deadly clashes between rival Taliban factions are escalating in southeastern Afghanistan, with at least 47 fighters killed on both sides in the past three days of fighting, an Afghan official said Monday.

Gul Islam Sayal, the spokesman for the governor of Zabul province, said another 53 members of the rival groups have been wounded and at least 18 from a new, splinter Taliban faction, were captured by the other side.

The fighting comes after several senior Taliban figures broke from the main insurgent group last week and elected Mullah Mohammad Rasool, formerly a provincial governor under the Taliban's 1996-2001 regime, as "supreme leader."

Rasool's faction opposes Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, who assumed power after the announcement of the death of Taliban founder Mullah Mohammad Omar this summer. Mullah Omar is said to have been dead for two years.

The fighting is fierce in Arghandab district, said Sayal, though a brief ceasefire was agreed to early Monday to gather the dead and wounded.

It's unclear how much support Rasool's new group has, but there have been reports of it having been boosted by militants from an Islamic State affiliate, said to have a presence in Zabul.

Islamic State, which controls large areas of Iraq and Syria, has been slowly building a presence in Afghanistan, and also controls a number of districts in the eastern Nangarhar province, bordering Pakistan.

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