Afghan Taliban name Haibatullah Akhundzada as new leader


Taliban have appointed Haibatullah Akhundzada as their new leader, officially confirming that their former chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour was killed in a US drone strike last week. 

“Haibatullah Akhundzada has been appointed as the new leader of Taliban after a unanimous agreement in the Shura (supreme council),” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on Wednesday.

Haibatullah previously served as a deputy to Mansour and was a former head of the Taliban’s “judiciary.”

Sirajuddin Haqqani, the head of a network responsible for a series of powerful bomb attacks across Kabul in recent years, and Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob, the son of founder Mullah Mohammad Omar, were also named deputies.

On May 21, the US Department of Defense announced in a statement that it had killed Mansour in a drone strike “in a remote area of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region.”

The news about Mullah Mansour’s death came amid reports that splinter groups within the Taliban were refusing to pledge allegiance to him.

There have also been growing differences among Taliban elements over peace talks with the Afghan government, with some vowing to fight for power instead of taking part in negotiations.

The Taliban have also seen a string of defections ever since the news about the death of its founder and long-time leader, Mullah Omar, broke in late July 2015. He had reportedly died at a hospital in Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi in April 2013.

The Taliban said they had concealed his death for two years as they did not want to make it public until foreign forces would have ended their fight against the militants in Afghanistan.

Bomb attack in Kabul

Meanwhile, at least ten people were killed and four others sustained injuries on Wednesday in a bombing attack that targeted a bus carrying court employees in Kabul.

Najib Danish, the deputy spokesman for the Afghan Interior Ministry, said an assailant detonated his explosives-laden jacket as he walked to the vehicle in the western part of the Afghan capital.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the Kabul attack. But Taliban is the likely culprit.

The Taliban militant group recently announced the start of its annual spring offensive against Afghan security forces and US-led foreign forces across the conflict-ridden country.

The Taliban said in a statement that the campaign had begun on April 12.

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