Mullah Omar's Son On TV For First Time As Taliban Polishes Public Image

Mohammad Yaqoob

Kabul: The son of Taliban founder Mullah Omar appeared in public for the first time on Wednesday, as Afghanistan's hardline rulers try to polish their media image.

The televised event saw Mohammad Yaqoob, Afghanistan's new defence minister, appealing to local businessmen to invest in hospitals and clinics, signalling the Taliban are emerging from the shadows.

As supreme leader of the movement during their first reign of power, Yaqoob's father Mullah Omar rarely appeared in public, and photos of him were banned.

Even when the one-eyed cleric died in 2013, the news was not made public for more than two years.

But since the Taliban returned to power in mid-August after a 20-year war against a US-backed government, its ministers have been taking a more open public and political role.

"Let's spend some money here, businessmen brothers have to come here to build hospitals, clinics, doctors have to come here too," Yaqoob said, at the Sardar Mohammad Dawood Khan military hospital in Kabul.

Afghanistan's health sector has been shattered by war and Afghanistan's economy has ground to a halt since the return of the Taliban, who remain under international sanctions.

Thousands are seeking treatment abroad, adding to chaos at the borders as others flee Taliban rule.

Yaqoob was once head of the powerful military commission and benefited from the aura of his late father's cult-like status in the movement.

But the most senior positions in the new government went to comrades of Omar, including Prime Minister Mohammad Hassan Akhund and his deputy Abdul Ghani Baradar.

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