KABUL: A spokesman of the Afghan Taliban on Wednesday confirmed the death of the group’s chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour in a US drone strike.
In a statement sent to media Wednesday, the insurgent group said its new leader is Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, a former head of the Taliban’s judiciary and one of two Mansour’s deputies.
It said he was chosen at a meeting of Taliban leaders.
Sirajuddin Haqqani, head of a network blamed for many high-profile bombs attacks in Kabul in recent years, and Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob, son of former leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, will serve as deputies, Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban’s main spokesman, said in the statement.
Mansour was reported killed in Pakistan on Saturday when his vehicle was struck by a US drone, believed to be the first time a Taliban leader was killed in such a way inside Pakistani territory.
Mullah Mansour’s ascension
The apparent elimination of Mansour, who swiftly consolidated power following a bitter Taliban leadership struggle after the death of Mullah Omar was revealed last year, was expected to spark new succession battles within the fractious movement.
The deaths of Taliban leaders have often been falsely reported, and Mansour himself was rumoured to have been killed last December.
Mansour was formally appointed head of the Afghan Taliban in July last year following the revelation that the group’s founder Mullah Omar had been dead for two years.
The group saw a resurgence under the firebrand supremo with striking military victories, helping to cement his authority by burnishing his credentials as a commander.
They briefly captured the strategic northern city of Kunduz in September in their most spectacular victory in 14 years. Southern opium-rich Helmand province is almost entirely under insurgent control…Agencies