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Crowd greets Taliban co-founder Baradar on return to Kandahar from Doha-exile

Crowd greets Taliban co-founder Baradar on return to Kandahar from Doha-exile
A co-founder of the Taliban has returned to the birthplace of the Islamist group, Kandahar, to the cheers of the extremist group’s supporters. He had been in exile in the Qatari capital.

On Tuesday night, Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar returned to Afghanistan from his exile in the Qatari capital, Doha. Footage shows the Islamist leader, thought to be around 50 years old, and his convoy being welcomed by followers as he entered the city of Kandahar, the birthplace of the radical group. 

Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem said the people of Kandahar had provided a warm welcome for the delegation of the Islamic Emirate – the unrecognized Taliban state of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. In a series of videos posted by the spokesman, the Taliban top brass can be seen disembarking a military aircraft, believed to be a US-made Boeing C-17 Globemaster, and greeting crowds as he journeyed from the airport.

Other footage shows his convoy being followed by a crowd of supporters before arriving at what is believed to be the governor’s compound. 

Baradar’s return to Afghanistan comes just three days after the fall of Kabul. Ousted President Ashraf Ghani has fled the country, although his exact whereabouts remains unknown. In his absence, First Vice President Amrullah Saleh declared himself caretaker leader on Tuesday. 

Baradar is also known to be one of the four founders of the Taliban in 1994. After rising to be the Islamist group’s top military commander in Afghanistan, he was arrested in 2010 and spent eight years in prison before being released by Pakistani authorities. 

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In February 2020, Baradar signed the Doha agreement on behalf of the Taliban, which saw the US commit to withdrawing troops from war-torn Afghanistan. It is rumored that he will become the country’s next leader. 

While the illusive Haibatullah Akhundzada is considered the Taliban’s chief, Baradar is the group’s most public face and political leader.

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