Friday 20 April 2018

Taliban picks new leader after Mullah Mohammad Omar's death

Mullah Mohammad Omar has been confirmed dead by Taliban officials. (AP)
Mullah Mohammad Omar has been confirmed dead by Taliban officials. (AP)

The Taliban has elected a successor to leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, who has been confirmed dead by officials in Afghanistan.

The group's Taliban Shura, or Supreme Council, has chosen Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, who has been acting as Mullah Omar's deputy for the past three years, as the new leader.

The seven-member-council has been meeting in the Pakistani city of Quetta, according to two high-ranking Taliban officials.

The group also chose Sirajuddin Haqqani as its new deputy leader.

Mansoor is considered close to the Pakistani authorities and his election could further divide an already-fractured Taliban as he is believed to have links to opposing councils within the movement. The Taliban is believed to have splintered under pressure to enter into peace talks with the Afghan government after almost 14 years of war.

The peace process suffered a blow when the Afghan Taliban indicated they were pulling out of the negotiations with the Kabul government, and later, when the Pakistan foreign ministry confirmed the talks hosted by Islamabad were postponed.

Haqqani has a US government bounty on his head as a leader of the extremist Haqqani network, which is allied with al-Qaida.

His election to the leadership of the Afghan Taliban confirms the group's ties to the Haqqani network, which has been accused of staging numerous cross-border attacks from its base in the Pakistani tribal area of North Waziristan, including a 19-hour siege at the US Embassy in Kabul in September 2011.

The Afghan government first announced on Wednesday that Mullah Omar was dead and that he in fact died over two years ago in a hospital in Pakistan. There was no confirmation on this from either Islamabad or the Taliban. His death had been announced on a number of occasions in the past but consistently denied by the Taliban.

Pakistan's foreign ministry said it was postponing the talks due to the "uncertainty" surrounding Mullah Omar's death but gave no new date for the negotiations.

"In view of the reports regarding the death of Mullah Omar and the resulting uncertainty, and at the request of the Afghan Taliban leadership, the second round of the Afghan peace talks, which was scheduled to be held in Pakistan on July 31 2015, is being postponed," said the statement.

The first round of the official, face-to-face discussions was hosted by Islamabad earlier this month. The meeting was supervised by US and Chinese representatives and ended with both sides agreeing to meet again.

The Afghan Taliban released a statement from Mullah Omar's family saying he died of an unspecified illness. It did not say when he died.

The statement was issued in the name of Mullah Omar's brother, Mullah Abdul Manan, and his son, Mohammad Yaqub.

It apologises for "any mistakes Mullah Omar (made) during his rule of Afghanistan".

It also asks all Afghans and Muslims to forgive any mistakes Mullah Omar made as leader of the Taliban.

The Taliban ruled Afghanistan from 1996 until they were overthrown in a US-led invasion in 2001.

Press Association

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