PESHAWAR - Senior members of the Afghan Taliban met to choose a successor to their former leader Mulla Akhtar Mansour on Monday.

Although some Taliban sources say Mansour is dead, the group’s leadership has not issued its own confirmation, concentrating instead on naming a successor.

“The leadership is being very careful because one wrong step could divide the group into many parties like former mujahideen,” a Taliban official from Nangarhar said, referring to guerrilla leaders who fought the Soviets in the 1980s before splitting into warring factions.

Mansour’s number two Sirajuddin Haqqani, leader of the militant network blamed for a series of high-profile attacks in Kabul, and Mulla Yaqoob, son of the movement’s late founder Mulla Omar are among the main contenders.

Yaqoob initially opposed Mansour’s claim to the leadership when his father’s death was belatedly made public last year. Choosing a member of Mulla Omar’s family would be a means of building consensus, but one of the Taliban officials said Yaqoob was reluctant to take over.

Haqqani had the backing of Pakistan, while Yaqoob had support among members of the Afghan Taliban, one member of the shura said.

The Taliban have set up a 10-member commission to try to establish how Mansour was picked out by the US drones, sources within the group said.

Mansour’s body

Two senior members of the movement also claimed that Pakistani authorities had delivered Mansour’s badly burned remains for burial in the western city of Quetta.

Pakistani officials however denied it, and hospital sources in Quetta said no one turned up to receive body of Wali Muhammad, a cover name the dead Taliban chief is believed to had been using.

An undamaged Pakistani passport in the name of Wali Muhammad, which Pakistani authorities said contained a visa for Iran, was recovered next to the burned-out car at the scene of the attack and is believed to have belonged to Mansour.