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5 dead in fighting between rival Taliban factions as group tries to resolve leadership crisis

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KABUL, Afghanistan — Gunbattles between rival Taliban factions left at least five dead in southern Afghanistan, a top official with the insurgent group said Saturday as its members meet in Pakistan to resolve a leadership crisis following the death of its former leader .

It was the first confirmed report of deadly Taliban infighting after an announcement last month that Mullah Omar had been dead for more than two years. Mullah Omar's family objected after his former deputy, , was named the new Taliban leader and rivalries have spilled into violence, said Ahmad Rabbani, head of a committee trying to reunify the group.

Rabbani spoke from the Pakistani city of Quetta, where hundreds of Taliban loyalists are meeting in an effort to resolve the split.

The five deaths came after Taliban commander Mullah Mansoor Dadullah, loyal to Mullah Omar's family, led hundreds of gunmen against Mansoor supporters in the southern Afghan province of Zabul, where the Taliban have long had a fighting presence, Rabbani said.

Rabbani said his committee hoped to reach a decision on who should lead the Taliban — whose leaders have been based in Pakistan since their regime was overthrown in a U.S.-led invasion in 2001 — by Tuesday.

Meanwhile, at least 13 police were reported killed in separate attacks in eastern and southern Afghanistan.

Col. Asadullah Ensafi, the deputy police chief in eastern Ghazni province, said at least eight officers were killed and 15 wounded in separate Taliban attacks on police checkpoints Friday in Andar and Qarabagh districts.

Insurgents have intensified attacks on police checkpoints in recent months, as they typically have few men and are vulnerable. Casualties have soared.

Separately, Ensafi said an Afghan forces airstrike killed 16 insurgents and wounded 17 late Friday in Ghazni's capital.

The war with the Taliban has been particularly tough this year for Afghan forces, who are fighting without international combat troops backing them up after the U.S. and NATO pulled out last year.

Separately, in the Chora district of southern Uruzgan province, five police officers were killed when their vehicle hit roadside bomb, said Abdul Qawi, the Chora police chief.

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