Taliban appoints Mullah Akhtar Mansour as new leader: Report
Iran Press TV
Thu Jul 30, 2015 12:39PM
The Taliban militant group has appointed Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour as its new leader, one day after news broke of the death of the group's long-time serving chief Mullah Omar, a report says.
An unnamed senior Taliban commander told the Pakistani daily Express Tribune on Thursday that the group had picked Mansour as its new leader.
The source confirmed reports that Sirajuddin Haqqani, the head of the notorious Haqqani network, will serve as Mansour's top deputy, adding that the decision was made in a Wednesday meeting of the executive council of the Taliban, known as the Shura.
Other reports said Haibatullah Akhundzada has been appointed as another deputy leader.
Mansour, a native of the southern province of Kandahar, served as aviation minister during the Taliban rule in Afghanistan in the 1990s. He was widely assumed to be one of the major candidates to replace Omar, although his position was undermined when he started to spread the news of Omar's death. He also served as the second-in-command of the Taliban for a period of time.
Mansour's rise to the position came amid reports of divisions within the ranks of the Taliban as some members of the group have engaged in peace talks with the Afghan government. Mansour is believed to be supportive of the negotiations.
The appointments came just one day after Kabul confirmed that Taliban's former leader, Omar, had died in a hospital in the Pakistani city of Karachi in April 2013.
In a statement, the Taliban on Thursday confirmed the death of Omar. 'The leadership of the Islamic Emirate and the family of Mullah Omar... announce that leader Mullah Omar died due to a sickness,' a Taliban statement said, using the movement's official name.
The Taliban statement did not say when Omar had died but said 'his health condition deteriorated in the last two weeks.' It added that three days of religious ceremonies would be held 'to pray for the soul of Mullah Omar.'
When he was alive, Omar had appointed Mullah Baradar Akhund and Mullah Ubaidullah Akhund as deputy leaders with Baradar being widely seen as his successor.
As the founder of the Taliban, Omar brought the militant group to power following the withdrawal of the Soviet forces from Afghanistan in the 1990s. He was ousted in 2001, when the United States and its allies invaded the country as part of Washington's so-called war on terror.
The Taliban and the Afghan government were scheduled to hold the second round of their talks in Pakistan on Friday, but officials in Islamabad said the meeting has been postponed based on a request from the two sides.
Earlier in the day, Taliban said the group was "not aware" of the process and may entirely pull out of it.
Pakistan mediated the first round of talks in a resort near Islamabad on July 7 where representatives from China and the United States also supervised the face-to-face negotiations.
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