The Afghan Taliban on Wednesday named Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada as its new leader to replace former chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour who was killed in a US drone strike in Pakistan.
“The Islamic Emirate’s leadership council decided to appoint Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada as the new leader of the Islamic Emirate and Mawlawi Sirajuddin Haqqani and Mawlawi Mohammad Yaqoob as his deputies,” the Taliban statement read.
Haqqani, who has a $10 million State Department bounty on his head, is the leader of Haqqani terror network, long aligned with the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and Yaqoob the son of former long-time Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, CNN reported.
According to officials, Akhundzada is a religious scholar and former head of the Taliban courts, was one of the Afghan Taliban’s deputy leaders. He has been responsible for issuing most of Taliban’s fatwas.
From Kandahar province, he belongs to the Eshaqzai clan. He is said to maintain close links with the Quetta Shura, the Afghan Taliban leaders said to be based in the Pakistani city of Quetta.
“All the members of the leadership council pledged allegiance to the newly appointed leader,” the statement said, adding allegiance to the new leader is “a religious obligation”.
It called on “all Muslims” to enter a three-day period of mourning for Mansour.
The same statement also confirmed Mansour’s death, who was killed in a US drone strike in Pakistan’s Balochistan province on Saturday.
The Taliban had previously confirmed Mansour’s death to CNN but Wednesday’s announcement is the first public statement from the group to affirm the death.
US and Afghan intelligence agencies had also independently confirmed his demise.
Mansour had inherited the leadership from leader Omar, who died in Pakistan in 2013. Omar had held the position since the inception of the movement in 1994.