Zawahiri pledges allegiance to new Taliban chief

DUBAI: Al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri pledged the group’s allegiance to new Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansoor in an audio recording released on militant websites on Thursday.

“As emir of al Qaeda, I pledge to you our allegiance, following the path of Sheikh (Osama) bin Laden and his martyred brothers in their allegiance to Mullah Omar,” Zawahiri said, referring to the former al Qaeda leader and to the longtime Taliban chief whose death was confirmed by militants last month.

The statement came amid a bitter struggle within the Taliban over Mansoor’s leadership.

Earlier this month, the Afghan Taliban released a rare video showing a gathering of their members pledging allegiance to new chief Mullah Akhtar Mansoor amid differences over his election as some Taliban cadres and Mullah Omar’s family have refused to submit to his leadership.

Mullah Mansoor was chosen to replace Mullah Omar days after the death of the Taliban creator was officially confirmed by the Afghan Taliban on July 30. Traditionally, the Afghan Taliban do not release videos of their gatherings or leaders and Monday’s video could be an attempt to dispel the impression of an internal rift.  The video was released a few days after the Taliban issued a 33-minute audio speech of Mullah Mansoor to a meeting that had elected him last week.

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