Taliban chief Haibatullah Akhundzada killed in Pakistan ‘months ago’: Reports
- If the reports of Akhundzada’s death are accurate, he will be the third Taliban chief after Mullah Omar and Mullah Akhtar Mansour to have died in Pakistan.
Conflicting reports emerged on Sunday about the fate of Afghan Taliban leader Haibatullah Akhundzada, with a section of the Afghan media reporting that he was killed in a blast in Pakistan’s Balochistan province last year.
However, senior Taliban leader Ahmadullah Wasiq described the reports of Akhundzada’s death as “false news and baseless rumours” and contended the Taliban chief was alive.
If the reports of Akhundzada’s death are accurate, he will be the third Taliban chief after Mullah Omar and Mullah Akhtar Mansour to have died in Pakistan.
Akhundzada was killed with Mullah Matiullah, the Taliban’s intelligence chief, and Hafiz Abdul Majeed, the group’s head of finance, in a blast at a safe house in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan, “months ago”, Hasht-e-Subh newspaper reported, citing its sources.
The house belonged to Majeed. While Akhundzada and Matiullah were killed almost instantly, Majeed died “two or three days later in a Pakistani military hospital”, the report said.
People familiar with developments said on condition of anonymity the blast was believed to have occurred in April 2020. The people confirmed that the blast had occurred in a house belonging to Majeed. They added that some more senior Taliban leaders were believed to have been killed in the blast.
Hours after the reports of Akhundzada’s death spread on Sunday, senior Taliban leader Ahmadullah Wasiq said on Twitter: “This is false news and baseless rumours have no truth. Spreading such rumours and false news is a failed propaganda attempt by the enemy's intelligence services. The enemy wants to hide its defeats in such rumours and distract the people’s minds.”
There have been reports in the past of Akhundzada’s death that have proved to be inaccurate.
However, it is not unknown for the Taliban to hide the death of its leaders. Mullah Omar’s death in Pakistan in 2013 was kept hidden from the public by the Taliban for about two years. The group confirmed the death in July 2015 only after Afghanistan’s spy agency went public with the development.
Mullah Omar’s successor, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, was killed in a US drone strike in Balochistan, in May 2016. Akhundzada was named the new head of the Taliban days later.
Akhundzada’s brother Hafiz Ahmadullah was killed with three others in a blast at a mosque located 25 km from Quetta on August 16, 2019. Akhundzada’s son was injured in the incident. The mosque was frequented by Afghan Taliban members and Akhundzada himself used to lead prayers there, reports at the time had said.
It is no secret that scores of top Afghan Taliban leaders are based in Pakistan. The top leadership council is called the “Quetta Shura” because most of its members are based in Quetta.
During Taliban deputy leader Abdul Ghani Baradar’s visit to Pakistan in December, video footage emerged that showed him acknowledging that the group makes all decisions related to the Afghan peace talks after consulting its leadership and clerics’ council based in Pakistan.
The last time a US president visited Seoul in 2019, Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un agreed to restart nuclear talks during an impromptu meeting at the heavily fortified demilitarized zone. As Joe Biden prepares to land in Seoul on Friday, the White House hasn't indicated he'll be heading to the DMZ. The White House has largely avoided stern reactions to Kim Jong Un latest tests, including an ICBM launch on March 24.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday called upon the world's attention as he yet again accused Russia of targeting civilians with the war set to complete three months. The Kremlin launched its offensive on February 24 and said it was aimed at “de-Nazifying” the neighbour country - claims that have been repeatedly dismissed by Kyiv. A UN Security Council meeting yet again saw the US and Russia sparring amid intensifying food crises across the world.
North Korea said on Friday it was achieving "good results" in the fight against the country's first confirmed Covid-19 outbreak, as the number of people with fever symptoms surpassed 2 million. The isolated nation reported 263,370 more people with fever symptoms, and two more deaths, taking the total fever caseload to 2.24 million as of Thursday evening, including 65 deaths, according to state media KCNA.
Sri Lanka fell into default for the first time in its history as the government struggles to halt an economic meltdown that prompted mass protests and a political crisis. Fitch Ratings also confirmed that finding, downgrading Sri Lanka to “restricted default” later in the day. The coupon payments, originally due April 18, were worth $78 million combined on notes maturing 2023 and 2028, with a 30-day grace period that expired on Wednesday.
Russia's former president and now senior security official, Dmitry Medvedev, said Thursday the West should not expect Russia to continue food supplies if it slaps Moscow with devastating sanctions over Ukraine. "Otherwise, there's no logic: on the one hand, insane sanctions are being imposed against us, on the other hand, they are demanding food supplies. Things don't work like that, we're not idiots," said Medvedev, Deputy Chairman of Russia's Security Council.