Afghan Taliban confirm Mansour’s death, announces new chief

The Afghan Taliban have named Haibatullah Akhunzada their new leader, a spokesman said in a statement on Wednesday that gave the group’s first official confirmation that former leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour had been killed in a U.S. drone strike.
This undated handout photograph released by the Afghan Taliban on Wednesday shows, according to the Afghan Taliban, the new Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada posing for a photograph at an undisclosed location.(AFP Photo/Afghan Taliban)
This undated handout photograph released by the Afghan Taliban on Wednesday shows, according to the Afghan Taliban, the new Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada posing for a photograph at an undisclosed location.(AFP Photo/Afghan Taliban)
Updated on May 25, 2016 09:59 PM IST
Copy Link
Hindustan Times | ByImtiaz Ahmed, Islamabad

The Afghan Taliban named Mullah Akhtar Mansour’s successor on Wednesday as the group confirmed the late chief was killed in a US drone strike in Balochistan last week.

The new chief, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, is one of the two deputies of Mansour. A scholar known for his extremist views, Akhundzada is unlikely to back a peace process with Kabul.

In a statement sent to the media, the Taliban said he was chosen at a meeting of Taliban leaders, which is believed to have taken place in Pakistan, but offered no other details.

“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan announces that Mullah Akhtar Mansoor embraced shahadat in a US drone strike in the border region near Kandahar’s Registan and Balochistan’s Naushki area,” a statement from the Taliban said.

This file photo shows Taliban leader Mullah Mansour, who was killed in a US drone strike last week. (AP File)
This file photo shows Taliban leader Mullah Mansour, who was killed in a US drone strike last week. (AP File)

Sirajuddin Haqqani of the Haqqani Network and Maulvi Yakub have been appointed as deputy chiefs of the group.

Akhtar Mansour was appointed head of the Afghan Taliban last July following the revelation that the group’s founder Mullah Omar had been dead for two years. The election of a new leader took time as the Rahbari Shura wanted to evolve a broad-based consensus to avoid any controversy, said the Taliban leaders.

Local media reports said senior members of the Taliban had been keenly aware of the need to appoint a candidate who could bring rival factions together and repair the splits that emerged last year when Mansour was appointed.

Meanwhile, while American and Afghan leaders have confirmed Mansour’s death, Islamabad insists it cannot confirm the man believed to be Mansour is actually him.

Akhundzada is a religious scholar who served as the Taliban’s chief justice before his appointment as a deputy to Mansour. He is known for issuing public statements justifying the existence of the extremist group, their war against the Afghan government and the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan. His views are regarded as hawkish, and he could be expected to continue in the aggressive footsteps of Mansour, at least in the early days of his leadership.

He was close to Mullah Omar, who consulted with him on religious matters. A convincing orator, Akhunzada was born in Kandahar — the capital during the Taliban’s 1996-2001 regime.

A member of the Noorzai tribe, he is said to be aged around 50 years, and comes from a line of religious scholars. He leads a string of madrassas, or religious schools — figures in the Taliban say up to 10 — across Pakistan’s southwestern Baluchistan province.

A former foreign minister under the Taliban, Mullah Mohammad Ghous, told The Associated Press that the choice of Akhundzada was “a very wise decision.” Akhundzada was well respected among Taliban of all ranks, and could be a unifying force for the fractured movement, Ghous said.

The new deputy leader Sirajuddin Haqqani was also one of Mansour’s deputies and leads the notorious Haqqani network — the faction behind some of the most ferocious attacks in Afghanistan since the war began in 2001. Mullah Yaqoub, the other new deputy, is the son of Mullah Omar and controls the Taliban military commissions for 15 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.

Akhundzada’s appointment came as a surprise to some, including Ghous, who said that despite not being a top contender but a “third candidate,” the new leader would rise above any personal animosity or conflict that might have arisen should either Haqqani or Yaqoub have been chosen.

The Taliban statement called on all Muslims to mourn Mansour for three days, starting from Wednesday. It also attempted to calm any qualms among the rank and file by calling for unity and obedience to the new leader.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who took office in 2014, assiduously courted Pakistan in an effort to bring the Taliban into a dialogue that would lead to peace talks. Mansour, however, refused, choosing instead to intensify the war once the international combat mission drew down to a training and support role in 2015. (with agency inputs)

Read: Pakistan denounces US strike believed to have killed Afghan Taliban chief

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close Story
QUICKREADS

Less time to read?

Try Quickreads

  • Another bomb exploded inside a mosque in the capital Kabul late on Wednesday, killing at least two people and wounding 10 others.

    At least 9 killed as 3 bombs strike minibuses in Afghan city: police

    Three bombs tore through minibuses in Afghanistan's northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif on Wednesday, killing at least nine people, police said. "The bombs were placed on three minibuses in different districts of the city," Balkh provincial police spokesman Asif Waziri told AFP, adding that 15 other people were wounded. Another bomb exploded inside a mosque in the capital Kabul late on Wednesday, killing at least two people and wounding 10 others, the interior ministry said.

  • A bomb exploded inside a mosque in the capital Kabul late on Wednesday.

    Afghanistan: 16 killed as four blasts tear through minibuses, Kabul mosque 

    At least 16 people were killed after a blast tore through a mosque in Afghanistan's capital Kabul and three blasts ripped through three minibuses northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif on Wednesday. A spokesman for Kabul's commander said at least two people were injured in the blast on a mosque in Kabul. Emergency hospital said in a tweet it had received five bodies from the blast and more than a dozen wounded patients, reported Reuters.

  • PTI workers set on fire a tree in Islamabad's Blue Area.

    Pakistan on boil: Trees torched, tear gas fired during Imran Khan's march

    Clashes erupted across several cities of Pakistan amid the Azadi March call by the ousted prime minister Imran Khan Niazi. After Karachi, Lahore and parts of Khyber Pakhunkhwa, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf supporters and workers resorted to violence in the federal capital Islamabad, where the party chief is set to hold the rally.

  • Pakistan's former all-rounder Mohammad Hafeez.

    ‘No petrol in any station, no cash in ATMs’: Pakistan's Mohammad Hafeez 

    On a day Lahore witnessed clashes between supporters of Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and police, former Pakistan cricketer Mohammad Hafeez took to Twitter and slammed the Pakistani establishment over the shortage of fuel and cash, tagging prominent politicians in the country. Political and economic volatility has deepened in the nuclear-armed nation ahead of a likely announcement by the International Monetary Fund later in the day on whether it will resume a $6 billion rescue package.

  • FILE - In this photo taken on April 22, 2013, new recruits practice charging with bayonets at a military training center in Hsinchu County, northern Taiwan. (AP)

    China conducts military exercise around Taiwan to warn U.S.

    China's People's Liberation Army on Wednesday said it has conducted a military exercise around Taiwan as a warning against its “collusive activities” with the United States, two days after President Joe Biden said Washington would get involved militarily if China were to try to take the self-ruled island by force. “This is a stern warning to the recent collusive activities by the US and Taiwan secessionists,” Senior a spokesperson of the Eastern Theatre Command, Colonel Shi Yi was quoted in Chinese state media as saying.

SHARE
Story Saved
×
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Thursday, May 26, 2022