Taliban Names New Leader

He's a former aide to Mullah Omar
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 25, 2016 3:17 AM CDT
Taliban Name New Leader
An Afghan soldier stands guard near a destroyed vehicle at the site of a suicide attack west of Kabul, Afghanistan, on Wednesday.   (AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini)

Senior Taliban members, after successfully evading American drone strikes for long enough to hold a leadership conference, have named a successor to the leader killed in a US airstrike last week. The Afghan Taliban, acknowledging Mullah Mansour's death for the first time, announced Wednesday that he will be succeeded by one of his deputies, Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada. The BBC reports that unlike Mansour, Akhundzada is an uncontroversial choice who has, until now, served more as a religious leader than a military commander and has issued most of the group's fatwas.

Akhundzada is believed to be a member of the powerful Noorzai tribe from Kandahar, which analysts say will make it easier for him to unite the group. The BBC puts the new leader's age at somewhere between 45 and 50, though Reuters reports that it's closer to 60. He is a former aide to Mullah Omar, according to Taliban sources, and like that leader, he is notoriously camera-shy. On the same day Akhundzada was named as the group's leader, the Afghan Taliban claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing that hit a minibus carrying court employees in Kabul that killed at least 10 people, the AP reports. (President Obama described Mansour's killing as an "important milestone.")

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