Afghan Taliban reportedly elects new supreme leader
The supreme council of the Afghan Taliban reportedly elected Akhtar Mohammad Mansour as its new leader. The news comes after Kabul announced that Mohammed Omar, who headed the Taliban’s military campaign for almost two decades, has been dead for two years.
The election was confirmed by anonymous Taliban commanders to several news agencies. Reuters said its two sources were present at the shura, or council, meeting where the election took place.
If true, Mansour, who was Omar’s deputy for many years, has won a power struggle against the reclusive warrior-cleric Mohammad Yakoub. Both were reportedly eyeing the position of Taliban leader following Omar’s death.
Reports of Omar’s deaths surfaced on many occasions since his last public appearance in 2001. He reportedly has not been sending audio recordings of his speeches to his followers for a few years, although statements in his name had been issued.
The reports of Omar’s demise from tuberculosis came days before the Taliban and the Afghan government were due to begin peace talks in Pakistan. The talks were postponed due to disagreements among the Taliban leadership, the Pakistani Foreign Office reported Tuesday.
Mansour reportedly favors a peace deal with Kabul, which would give legitimacy and more power to the militant movement, which already controls a large part of Afghanistan.
The talks come as Taliban is threatened by pressure from the rival Islamic State group based in Iraq and Syria. Some Taliban leaders have reportedly defected to Islamic State and are fighting against former comrades.