Afghan Taliban appoint new head

  • 25/05/2016
Former leader of the Taliban Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour (Reuters)
Former leader of the Taliban Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour (Reuters)

The Afghan Taliban have announced the appointment of Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada as the leader to replace Mullah Akhtar Mansour who was killed in a US drone strike.

Akhundzada is a former head of the Taliban's judiciary and was deputy to Mansour.

He was chosen by a leadership council at an undisclosed location in south-western Pakistan over the past four days, sources said.

Akhundzada, a respected cleric well-versed in sacred texts, was appointed "after a long discussion," the Taliban said in a statement.

Afghan Taliban appoint new head

Wanted poster issued by the US FBI for Sirajuddin Haqqani (Reuters)

The rebels also announced that Sirajuddin Haqqani, who was second-in-command to Mansoor after he was named leader in July 2015, will be Akhundzada's first deputy.

Haqqani, son of Haqqani network founder Maulawi Jalaludin Haqqani, replaced his father in 2005 as leader of the terrorist group founded in the 1970s, which the United States has repeatedly accused Pakistan of harbouring.

Meanwhile, the post of second deputy to the new Taliban leader will be occupied by Mullah Omar's son, Mullah Yaquba, the statement said.

The insurgents explained that Mansoor died in a border area between the northern Afghan province of Kandahar and the southwestern Pakistani province of Baluchistan, while the US explicitly said he died in Pakistan.

Despite confirmation by Afghanistan and the US, the Pakistani government refused to confirm Mansour's death.

Experts said the death of Mansoor has dropped a curtain on Afghan peace initiative for at least another year, as the new leader might need some time to consolidate his power.

"And sending your fighters to the battlefield is the best way to do that," Pakistani security analyst Fida Khan said.