Afghan Taliban confirm Mansour’s death, appoint new leader

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The Afghan Taliban confirmed on Wednesday that their leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour was killed in a US drone strike last week and that they have appointed a successor – a scholar known for extremist views who is unlikely to back a peace process with Kabul.
The announcement came as a suicide bomber struck a minibus carrying court employees in the Afghan capital, killing at least 10 people, an official said. The Taliban promptly claimed responsibility for the attack.
In a statement sent to the media, the Taliban said their new leader is Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, one of Mansour’s two deputies. The insurgent group said he was chosen at a meeting of Taliban leaders, which is believed to have taken place in Pakistan, but offered no other details.
Mansour was killed in Pakistan on Saturday when his vehicle was struck by a U.S. drone plane, an attack believed to be the first time a Taliban leader was killed in such a way inside Pakistani territory. Pakistani authorities have been accused both by Kabul and the West of giving shelter and support to some Taliban leaders – an accusation that Islamabad denies. The insurgents have been fighting to overthrow the Kabul government since 2001, when their own Islamist regime was overthrown by the U.S. invasion.
The United States and the Afghan government have said that Mansour had been an obstacle to a peace process, which ground to a halt when he refused to participate in talks with the Afghan government earlier this year. Instead, he intensified the war in Afghanistan, now in its 15th year. Mansour had officially led the Taliban since last summer, when the death of the movement’s founder, the one-eyed Mullah Mohammad Omar became public. But he is believed to have run the movement in Mullah Omar’s name for more than two years. The revelation of Mullah Omar’s death and Mansour’s deception led to widespread mistrust, with some senior Taliban leaders leaving the group to set up their own factions.

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