Conflicting rumors swept Kabul today over the fate of Afghanistan's former president Nur Mohammed Taraki, some saying he was dead of gunshot wounds and others listing him as still alive but seriously wounded.
Since Taraki's announced resignation on Sunday, diplomats in the Afghan capital have expressed skepticism over the oficial version that he stepped down for health reasons.
In the latest reports reaching Pakistan, the diplomats said they were unable to confirm widespread rumors that Taraki had died in a military hospital after a gunbattle at his presidential palace Friday.
One diplomatic report portrayed him as clinging to life but suffering from brain damage.
[State Department spokesman Hodding Carter said in Washington that he had "no confirmation on the reports that Taraki was killed." Carter repeated U.S. "concern about any kind of Soviet intervention in that situation."]
The Kabul diplomats said many senior government officials were in the presidential palace when Friday's gunbattles broke out in the wake of a cabinet purge and power struggle within the ruling Khalq Party.
Hafizullah Amin, a Marxist, took power at the weekend and announced in his first public statement as Afghanistan's new leader that from now on, no individual would rule the country. He pledged good relations with all nations, "especially the Soviet Union."
Amin said Afghanistan would be governed in consultation with the central committee of the Khalq Party, the revolutionary council and the council of ministers. Amin is secretary general of the party, chairman of the revolutionary council and the country's prime minister.
He made no mention of Taraki in his broadcast. But he said that "self-centered and notorious elements" in conflict with the working classes had been eliminated.
The diplomats said portraits of Taraki had been removed from streets and government offices.
Kabul was calm and extra troops and tanks which had patrolled the streets since Friday's shooting had returned to their bases on the outskirts of the capital, diplomats said.
Three officials who died in the gunbattle at Taraki's presidential residence have been made revolutionary heroes and three towns in Afghanistan have been named after them.