WASHINGTON - A senior Taliban commander has issued a scathing statement about the death of Maulvi Muhammad Ismail, the former Deputy Military Council Chairman for the Taliban's Quetta Shura, who was reportedly killed in Taliban infighting last month.

In a videotaped statement sent to a Pashto news website called Taand on May 10, 2012 Mullah Ghulam Hassan, a senior Taliban commander once based in Ghazni province of Afghanistan and a close ally of Ismail, blamed Afghan, Pakistani, and American intelligence agencies for “creating divisions among the Taliban”.

Hassan also threatened several senior Taliban for their part in conspiring against the unity of the group. It is not exactly clear when the videotape was made.

Ismail, a top Taliban commander in southern Afghanistan who had long been under suspicion by other Taliban for graft, extortion, and robbery, was reportedly arrested by Taliban fighters in April.  In early May, former Taliban members and Afghan intelligence officers confirmed that Ismail had been executed by Taliban fighters for allegedly engaging in backdoor talks with the Afghan government and for accepting large sums of money to participate in such talks.

In the nearly 28-minute interview, titled "Taliban Commander says Mullah Ismail is innocent," Hassan levelled a number of serious charges against the senior Taliban leadership, marking the first time that ferocious infighting among the Quetta Shura's most senior members has been thrust into the media spotlight so publicly. Hassan accused Mullah Abdul Qayum Zakir, the Military Council Chairman, for the Quetta Shura and Ismail's replacement, of orchestrating the kidnapping and torture of Ismail at the discretion of a number of Taliban commanders who had problems with Ismail.

In the most daring revelation of the interview, Hassan vowed to avenge the mistreatment and dishonour brought upon him and Mullah Ismail, by killing Zakir and four other top Taliban leaders, including Hafez Majeed Noorzai, a prominent and fearsome old guard Taliban commander from Kandahar province of Afghanistan.

In March, the Taliban claimed that they had arrested Mullah Ghulam Hassan along with Mullah Ahad Agha from Zabul province. The Taliban accused the two leaders of conspiring with the Afghan government and International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) leaders in Afghanistan and accepting unspecified large payments for participating in backdoor peace talks with the Afghan government. In light of the Taliban's claim to have detained him, it is not immediately clear how Ghulam Hassan was able to make his video interview, but reports in March and April confirming Hassan's arrest might have been misinterpreted.

Hassan's videotaped statement rejected all allegations of misconduct against him and Ismail, and personally rebuked Taliban commander Maluvi Sadiqullah for an allegation that had misconstrued Hassan's visit to the United Nations Assistance Mission for Afghanistan (UNAMA) office as an unsanctioned trip to Dubai. Hassan denied accusations that he had contacts with the Afghan government and that he had mishandled $88,000. To the contrary, Hassan claimed that he had been instrumental in securing the release of several Taliban commanders from Afghan custody by engaging UNAMA in southern Afghanistan.

At one point in the videotape, Hassan addressed Taliban members and religious clerics directly, warning them that some senior Taliban officials such as Maulvi Sharafuddin and "some others" were behind this conspiracy against him and Ismail.

On April 17, Sharafuddin, the Taliban's shadow governor for Zabul province, was reported to have been gunned down, along with his aide Murad Khan Kamil and three others, by unknown assassins in the Saro Nasar neighbourhood of Quetta, Pakistan.